Dementia is not a disease but a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. These symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. While the likelihood of having dementia increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia include:
- memory loss, especially problems with memory for recent events, such as forgetting messages, remembering routes or names, and asking questions repetitively
- increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require planning
- becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
- difficulty finding the right words
- difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops
- changes in personality and mood
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should be encouraged to see their GP as soon as possible. Dementia is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other conditions will be ruled out before a dementia diagnosis is made.
What to expect from us
Keeping occupied and stimulated can improve quality of life for the person with dementia. Activities can act as an opportunity for enjoyment. They can also encourage independence, social inclusion, communication or expression of feelings. Acknowledge the person’s cultural or religious background when planning activities. Meaningful activities should be enjoyable and adult appropriate, and may be linked to hobbies or interests that the person enjoyed before the diagnosis of dementia.
We have a range of activities that supports the person to be part of their community and to feel valued. Examples of how we achieve this include:
- arranging flowers for Sunday Mass supports the person to feel important and valued because it relates to a past role.
- taking part in the daily Tai Chi or Yoga. A physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the person’s wellbeing and can improve the quality of life for people at all stages of dementia as we see daily at the centre
- keep involved in daily life, like being part of the team that delivers meals on wheels
- potting plants for the environment- nurturing the seedlings
- volunteering in an op shop
- language/computers classes
Centacare’s ‘Men’s Sheds’ can be a benefit to men suffering from dementia as they create an environment where men meet regularly on a weekly basis and have a yarn. Men work on jobs such as repairing bicycles for refugee families to support them with transport or making items for local churches or schools. All activities are fully supervised. The benefits include:
- helping men regain a sense of purpose in life
- improve memory capacity
- enhance self-esteem
- decrease social isolation
- facilitate friendship and companionship
- provide an environment conducive to men’s learning.
Activities such as taking a walk, cooking or painting can help preserve dignity and self-esteem. They can help a person with dementia feel connected to normal life and can maximise choice and control. Some activities offer an emotional connection with others. By remaining involved and active, a person with dementia can maintain their skills and independence for longer.
Centacare believes it is very important that people with dementia are treated with respect. It is also important to remember that a person with dementia is still a unique and valuable human being, despite their diagnoses. Empower those living with and affected by dementia to receive the best available care that is tailored to meet their needs.
We Can Help
It helps to know you aren’t alone. Talking to others who are going through the same experiences as caregivers can provide you with ideas, support and resources. Caring can be a rewarding experience but it can also be stressful and difficult at times. We support carers, of frail elderly clients or clients living with dementia, with individualised support through our S.H.A.R.E. The Care carer support program and counselling service. Informal monthly coffee mornings and structured education programs bi-monthly are available.
For more information call 1300 CENTACARE (1300 236 822).