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What is dementia?

The term 'dementia' is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. Symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. There are many different types of dementia although some are far more common than others and they are often named according to the condition that has caused the dementia.

Here is a list of the most common forms of diagnosed dementia (clicking on any of these will give you further details):

Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception. Many scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease results from an increase in the production or accumulation of a specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) in the brain that leads to nerve cell death.

The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70 and may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85. Nonetheless, AD is not necessarily a normal part of aging and is not something that inevitably happens in later life. For example, many people live to over 100 years of age and never develop Alzheimer's disease.

The main risk factor for AD is increased age. As a population ages, the frequency of Alzheimer's continues to increase. Ten percent of people over 65 years of age and 50% of those over 85 years of age have AD. Unless new treatments are developed to decrease the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's, the number of individuals with the disease in the UK is expected to be 1.7 million by the year 2050. Currently there are around 400,000 people suffering from AD.

Here at Scimitar Care Hotels PLC, our staff are fully trained and able to care for residents suffering from most forms of dementia, including Alzheimers, they are well aware of the many progressive stages of the disease and how to help the resident cope through this illness. The registered managers of our care hotels are highly experienced and offer both the resident and their families a great amount of support and information to help them cope and deal with the symptons of AD.

Symptons of Alzheimers Disease

The onset of Alzheimer's disease is usually gradual, and it is slowly progressive. Memory problems that family members initially dismiss as "a normal part of aging" are in retrospect noted by the family to be the first stages of Alzheimer's disease. When memory and other problems with thinking start to consistently affect the usual level of functioning; families begin to suspect that something more than "normal aging" is going on.

Problems of memory, particularly for recent events (short-term memory) are common early in the course of Alzheimer's disease. For example, the individual may, on repeated occasions, forget to turn off an iron or fail to recall which of the morning's medicines were taken. Mild personality changes, such as less spontaneity, apathy, and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions, may occur early in the illness.

As the disease progresses, problems in abstract thinking and in other intellectual functions develop. The person may begin to have trouble with figures when working on bills, with understanding what is being read, or with organizing the day's work. Further disturbances in behavior and appearance may also be seen at this point, such as agitation, irritability, quarrelsomeness, and a diminishing ability to dress appropriately.

Warning signs of Alzheimers Disease

The Alzheimer's Association has developed the following list of warning signs that include common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Individuals who exhibit several of these symptoms should see a physician for a complete evaluation.

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative

It is normal for certain kinds of memory, such as the ability to remember lists of words, to decline with normal aging. In fact, normal individuals 50 years of age will recall only about 60% as many items on some kinds of memory tests as individuals 20 years of age. Furthermore, everyone forgets, and every 20 year old is well aware of multiple times he or she couldn't think of an answer on a test that he or she once knew. Almost no 20 year old worries when he/she forgets something, that he/she has the 'early stages of Alzheimer's disease,' whereas an individual 50 or 60 years of age with a few memory lapses may worry that they have the 'early stages of Alzheimer's disease.'

Treating Dementia

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for Dementia or its related diseases. There are several medications available that help to treat the symptoms of dementia. These medications attempt to improve the brain's functioning and try to delay the progression of symptons where as others maybe prescribed to control mood, psychosis or sleep problems.

At Scimitar Care Hotels PLC, along with the prescriptions from registered Doctors, we aid our residents through the difficulties that dementia can present by offering a whole host of activities that our residents are free to join in as they please (or not if they so wish), these include:

  • Regular yet gentle exercise to music, including using small instruments and soft foam equipment to help sensory awareness
  • Sing-along and dancing sessions
  • Entertainment provided by many local musicians and performers, playing classic songs from the many decades of popular music
  • Specific dementia units are decorated with sensory equipment on the walls and sensory items supplied for the residents to touch, feel and interact with
  • Games such as bingo, roulette and others to provide social interaction and entertainment
  • Doll therapy, which we've found to be very effective in helping those with Dementia become more focused, raises their spirits and enhances their communication with others
  • Allowing those who choose to walk to gently meander around the unit, without being asked to remain seated, but under supervision at all times

But what we really pride ourselves in is our staff providing individually centred, one on one interaction with each resident to cater for their individual needs and what makes them comfortable. Be that painting, knitting or dancing or quite simply allowing them to do nothing but watch the others, we've found many of our residents are at their most content watching their friends and neighbours doing the hard work!

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is not a single disease but a group of syndromes relating to different vascular mechanisms, see our seperate dementia article for further information. The distinction between vascular dementia and Alzheimer's dementia is becoming increasingly blurred because vascular risk factors play a role in both diseases.

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia in the West after Alzheimer's disease. One year after a stroke, 25% of patients develop new-onset dementia. Within four years following a stroke, the relative risk of incident dementia is 5.5%. The prevalence of vascular dementia is higher in men than in women.

Early signs of probable vascular dementia onset can be described by the following:

  • Difficulty in walking or change in one's gait
  • Experiences of unsteadiness and a tendency for unprovoked falls
  • Bladder symptoms without any diagnosed urological conditions
  • Change in emotions, such as the onset of depression or aggression

Should there be further symptoms, such as hallucinations or lucid periods, consideration could be made of potential dementia with Lewy bodies

In all of the above cases, professional advice should be sort immediatly to detect any early stages of the disease.

At Scimitar Care Hotels PLC we are more than capable of providing care for those afflicted with Vascular Dementia and we have trained staff not only to help look after the residents, but also to offer advice and comfort to the families of the resident to help them cope with the onset of this disease.

Dementia with Lewy bodies

This form of dementia clinically overlaps both Alzheimers and Parkinson's Disease, but is generally more associated with Parkinson's. This is due to the effects that Dementia with Lewy bodies (or DLB for short) has on both cognitive (i.e. memory) and motor control (i.e. movement). Therefore in many cases, DLB can often be misdiagnosed at first, but it's distinction is that where Alzheimers can be quite gradual, usually DLB will have a rapid onset with especially rapid decline in the first few months. Despite this difficulty, it is important to have DLB identified early due to complications surrounding the medication supplied to help with the treatment of Dementia. Sufferers of DLB are more susceptible to the drugs prescribed for the many different variants of Dementia and should be treated with caution.

Symptons of DLB often vary, but will generally include core matters such as:

  • Fluctuating cognition with varying attention and alertness, day to day and sometimes hour to hour
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations (observed in three quarters of all DLB sufferers)
  • Motor degradation as features in Parkinson's disease (shuffling gait, blank expression, stiffness of movement) although the tremors associated with Parkinson's are generally less common.

As with all forms of dementia, there is no currently known cure and therefore DLB will gradually render the sufferer incapable of tending to their own needs and the primary caregiver will need to adapt their way of life (and potentially home) to help cope with the onset of demands that DLB will eventually present.

At Scimitar Care Hotels PLC we are more than aware of the symptoms and treatments that those suffering from DLB will require. We understand the need for a relaxed, calm and stable environment for those suffering from DLB as it is often changes in the environment that can have the most affect on the behavior of the patient. We therefore believe that Scimitar Care Hotels PLC is one of the best choices you can make if you're looking for support with caring for a relative suffering from this disease.

Frontotemporal dementia

This dementia is a clinical syndrome caused by the degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain. It is the second most common early-onset dementia after Alzheimers Disease

Symptoms of the disease can generally be broken down into two groups underlying the functions of the front part of the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain controls our behaviour and how we plan and organise our daily routines. With the onset of frontotemporal dementia the sufferer will generally show signs of lethargy (i.e. unwillingness to get out of bed, wash or look after themselves) or conversely disinhibition, i.e. where the sufferer can be prone to making explicit outbursts or performing inappropriate acts (such as theft or showing disregard for their actions in front of others). In some cases untoward aggression can also develop and cause problems as it has to be remembered that this is a physical disease that the sufferer has no control of, yet can cause the primary carer to become disillusioned with being able to provide the support that is required from them.

Often the sufferers use of language is affected, not simply in regard to outbursts or swearing, but also with difficulty with naming and word comprehension. Others may find it difficult to speak fluently and have difficult articulating themselves, whilst some will find that they 'over explain' themselves, using many words to describe a simple task.

As with all types of dementia, there is no known cure, but at Scimitar Care Hotels PLC we know how to provide the necessary care to help those with frontotemporal dementia cope with their problems and provide the atmosphere that will help ease the symptoms. It's important to understand the disease and help to evaluate what causes specific behavioural changes in the person so that they can be avoided, thus lessing the chances of having an episode. We understand the need to work with the person rather than against them, developing coping strategies to help work around the issue rather than trying to change it (and potentially cause further unrest).

We know how difficult it can be to help care for those afflicted with such a disease, but with our expertise and patience we hope to allow all our residents to enjoy our care hotels as much as the next.

Korsakoff Syndrome

This is a neurological disorder caused by a lack of thiamine (or vitamin B₁ as it is otherwise known). Whilst the cause of this deficiency can be due to severe malnutrition, the general and most common cause in the Western world would be that of chronic alcoholism. Hence Korsakoff Syndrome can often be associated as alcoholic dementia.

Korsakoff syndrome manifests primarily affecting the sufferers memory function, they will experience different levels of amnesia as well as creating 'truths' of their own to fill in these blackouts. They'll generally show signs of apathy and a lack of insight with little appetite for conversation.

Here at Scimitar Care Hotels PLC, we hope to care for those suffering from Korsakoff by providing a secure environment for them and creating a specific care plan that ensures they are receiving the required nutriments to help balance and stabalise their condition. With those suffering from Korsakoff syndrome or more specifically alcoholic dementia, it can be found that a reduction in the alcohol consumed along with a healthy diet can indeed lead to improvements in their conditions. Our care is always provided alongside that of external professional doctors and district nurses to try and ensure that our residents receive all the required treatment and care that helps them live with their condition.

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a diagnosis given to people who are having problems with their memory (or cognitive impairments) that aren't expected at their current age group. It is generally considered as a transitional stage that at some point may very well lead on to a type of dementia. For example, although MCI can present with a variety of symptoms, when memory loss is the predominant cognitive impairment this is frequently seen as a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease in later years.

It has been suggested that individuals tend to progress to probable Alzheimers disease at a rate of 10-15% per year. When other cognitive impairments are present besides memory loss, it is believed that these cases are more likely to convert to other dementias (e.g. dementia with Lewy bodies).

This isn't to mean that if you suffer some memory loss in your life that you have possible MCI, this can occur to us all at some time or another, due to stress, anxiety, depression or physical illness. A doctor will have to perform a variety of tests before a successful diagnosis of MCI can be made.

Here at Scimitar Care Hotels PLC we are aware of the issues of MCI, experience and studies also suggest that if caught early enough, MCI can be managed in such a way that the condition can be improved or at least remain stable and therefore not develop into dementia. We try to help those with MCI by promoting well being in our residents, ensuring that they at least try and perform some light exercise or complete crossword puzzles or other games as these have been shown in studies to help combat the onset of dementia. With dutiful care and attention we hope to help all our residents enjoy the latter years of life.