Over one third of the carers which Carers Bucks supports are caring for someone with dementia and almost half of those carers who attend our monthly support groups across Buckinghamshire are caring for someone with dementia.
Dementia is a term used to describe various different brain disorders that lead to loss of brain function. There are over 100 different types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies. These are caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain and, as these nerve cells cannot be replaced, the symptoms get progressively worse as more cells are destroyed.
Dementia can affect young people as well as older people; ‘Young Onset Dementia’ is the term often used to describe anyone diagnosed with dementia under the age of 65. Read The Alzheimer’s Society factsheet on dementia in younger people.
Carers Bucks runs a support group for those affected by Young Onset Dementia which takes place at Jackson Court in Hazlemere on the second Tuesday of the month 10.30am – 12pm. Please call 0300 777 2722 for further details.
Each person will experience dementia in his or her own individual way, but there will usually be:
- a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills
- a gradual loss of the skills needed to carry out daily activities
However these symptoms may have nothing to do with dementia; the person you care for may have another illness which is producing similar symptoms. Only by getting a diagnosis will you know what you are dealing with and what help is available to you.
The GP is the first person to consult if you are concerned about someone close to you. The GP may then refer the person being diagnosed to a specialist consultant. Assessments can include conversations with the person being diagnosed and members of their family, a physical examination, and memory tests and/or brain scans. The Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) is the most commonly used test for complaints of memory problems or when a diagnosis of dementia is being considered.
You are entitled to ask for a referral to a specialist for a second opinion or for support and access to services that such a referral may give. Press for a referral if you feel it would be helpful and the GP does not suggest it.
Currently there is no medical test to determine a diagnosis of dementia and as there could be a number of conditions causing the behaviour a process of elimination will take place before a diagnosis is made.
A diagnosis of dementia can come as a shock. Even if you have been expecting it, this can be a worrying and upsetting time. You and the person you care for will need a great deal of reassurance and support.
Few forms of dementia are curable, but there are some drugs available that appear to alleviate the symptoms in some people. Different conditions respond to treatments and medication in different ways.
Once a diagnosis has been confirmed accessing services and support can make a great difference for both the carer and the person with the dementia. Your first step should be to contact your local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society for advice, information and support:
Aylesbury – 01296 331722
High Wycombe – 01494 670909
The Alzheimer’s Society national website has a huge range of useful information for carers, as well as a discussion forum where people can share information and experiences. They also have a helpline 0300 222 1122.
As well as the support groups run by the different branches of the Alzheimer’s Society, there are a number of other groups in Buckinghamshire supporting carers of people with dementia:
Changing Places – for adults caring for a parent with dementia
Church End, Princes Risborough, Bledlow, Princes Risborough
7.30pm, first Wednesday of the month. Contact Helen Robinson
If you are caring for someone with dementia, you may also find Unforgettable.org useful.
If you have any questions or need to speak to someone about caring for someone with dementia contact Carers Bucks on 0300 777 2722 where an experienced support worker can talk to you and help you with any concerns.