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MAY 13/2016

The challenges of living with dementia

Dementia - challenges

Each year 225,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with dementia, which is roughly one person every three minutes. A diagnosis doesn’t mean that an individual will immediately have to stop taking part in the activities they love but may mean having  to do them in a different way. 

After the initial diagnosis, a person can go through a variety of feelings and emotions, including worrying about their how their life may change, or sometimes relief that they now know what they are facing. Here are some of the challenges they may come across:

Uncertainty about the future

Not knowing about the future and how symptoms will develop can be unsettling for anyone. From initial diagnosis through to living with the condition, it is important to maintain communication with loved ones. It can be difficult as the dementia progresses and more support and care are needed.

Mild memory problems

In the early stages, people can experience problems with their memory, such as forgetting a name or not remembering where they have placed their keys. This can be upsetting and may affect an individual’s self-esteem.

Here are some practical tips for coping with memory problems:

  • Keep a regular routine
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Break tasks down into individual steps
  • Put important items like keys and glasses in the same place
  • Do challenging tasks early on in the day 
  • Place important numbers near the phone
  • Put labels or photos on cupboards to remind yourself where things are
  • Use memory aids such as journals, to do lists and calendars.

Dementia - looking at an old photo

Depression and anxiety

Feeling depressed or anxious is very common following a diagnosis and can affect a person’s coping skills and ability to concentrate on tasks. It can also lead to a sense of isolation. 

There are a variety of options available for treating depression and anxiety, including medication and cognitive treatments. Treatment for mild mood disorders can involve talking therapies such as counselling, reminiscence activities and life story work.

Healthy lifestyle

Problems can seem much worse when a person is worried or stressed. The Department of Health and Alzheimer’s Society recommend a healthy lifestyle which means keeping physically, mentally and socially active to maintain memory and skills. This includes; exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, having regular medical check-ups, completing puzzles, reading, and getting out and about to meet family and friends. 

Changes in behaviour

As the condition progresses, a person’s loved ones may notice behaviour that is out of character such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Repetition
  • Trailing 
  • Hoarding items
  • Losing inhibitions
  • Shouting and screaming
  • Wandering.

This can be a challenge. It is important to find out more about the specific behaviour and when and how it presents itself. Behaviours may be caused by a physical illness, it expressed by the person’s feelings, or it may just be a reaction to the way someone has interacted with them. 

Non-verbal communication is very important to people with dementia. They will look at facial expressions and body language to understand what is being said. To find out more about caring for someone with dementia, read our top tips.

Has your friend or family member been affected by dementia? Share the challenges you have faced and join us to raise awareness of the condition. You can also check out our careers in care by clicking here.

Read our other articles on dementia and care:

Sources: Alzheimer’s Society, Independent Age

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Next: Top tips for caring for a person with dementia

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