World Alzheimer’s month takes place every September, and is dedicated to raising awareness and challenging the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's disease. A report in 2019 found there are around 900,000 people with Alzheimer's disease in the UK, and this is estimated to rise to 1.6 million people by 2040. In this blog, we share more information about the disease, how to spot the early signs of Alzheimer's and how we can support those affected.
World Alzheimer’s Month: Each year in September, people come together from all over the world to increase the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.
This year, the theme is ‘never too early, never too late’. The focus is on the risk factors of Alzheimer's and how we can reduce risk, emphasising the crucial role in potentially delaying or even preventing the onset of dementia.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type, and the most common cause, of dementia. It is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop and worsen gradually over many years. It slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out daily tasks, continue a conversation and respond to the environment. The cause of Alzhemer’s is not yet fully understood, but is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
In 2019, a report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), found there are currently around 900,000 people with dementia in the UK. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million people by 2040. They estimate 209,600 people will develop dementia this year, one every three minutes.
How is Alzheimer’s Treated?
You may be wondering what care is available for Alzeimer’s patients. Although there is currently no cure for Alzhiemer’s disease, medicine is available that can temporarily reduce the symptoms. There is medicine that can help nerve cells to communicate with each other, and medicine to help combat the stress that Alzheimer’s can cause.
Aside from medicine, there are also therapies and activities that can help. Family, friends and carers can help with these activities, especially with reminiscence and life story work. Discussing a service user’s past has shown that it can improve mood and wellbeing. Other therapies include Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, to improve memory and problem solving skills and Cognitive Rehabilitation, which works by encouraging a service user to use the parts of their brain that are working to help the parts that are not.
How we can support people with alzheimer’s:
Although it affects each person differently, there are some general approaches on how to care for Alzheimer’s patients that can be used in a wide range of situations. These are referred to as the 4 R’s of Dementia Care, and can help when caring for and communicating with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The 4 R’s of Dementia Care:
Reassure - A person suffering from Alzheimer’s may have difficulty interacting with the world around them, and there are many reasons why they may feel anxious and afraid. It is important to reassure the person that everything is alright, help them understand that they are safe and that you are there for them.
Reconsider - Consider their perspective. They may experience situations differently than you imagine. As Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition, their needs may change over time, therefore you may have to reconsider their care plan to accommodate any changes.
Redirect - You may need to redirect their challenging behaviours. Asking an individual with Alzheimer’s to stop a problematic behaviour doesn’t always work, but redirecting them often does. You could change the focus of conversation, take them to a different room, or provide them with something that brings them comfort.
Relax - Create a relaxed and calming environment for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. As they struggle to interpret the world around them, it is important to ensure a peaceful environment, free from unnecessary noise, clutter and stimulation. A person with Alzheimer’s also may increasingly rely on your emotions, so it is important to try and remain calm and relaxed, so they can do the same.
Along with the 4 R’s, it is important to have compassion, understanding and patience when caring for someone with Alzhiemer’s.
Some of the most essential skills needed are soft skills that you most likely already have: patience, creativity, flexibility and compassion.
As spoken communication can become difficult, a service user may communicate in other ways. Having the patience to interpret and understand them is crucial, and will make the service user feel more at ease.
This goes hand in hand with creativity; maybe you could find more effective ways of communicating with a service user, or creative ways to redirect their attention when struggling with challenging behaviours.
Make sure to allow for flexibility on a daily basis, the ability to adapt and modify your approach and response to a service user is greatly beneficial when providing care.
Compassion is in everything we do at Cera. We are constantly taking action to support those who need it, a vital quality we see in all of our carers.
Don't forget to care for yourself:
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, you must remember how important it is to also look after yourself, too. Caring for someone can be very challenging and you may often put their needs before your own. However, looking after yourself is not only beneficial to you, but also to the person you are caring for.
Try to do something you enjoy every day, whether alone or with the person you care for. Where possible, make sure to take time for yourself, such as having a cup of tea or taking a walk. Ensure that you look after your own physical and mental health needs.
This World Alzheimer’s month, it’s important for us to educate ourselves and others. Knowledge is key to ensuring everyone who needs support, is able to access it, and those who are struggling with the impact of Alzheimer’s know they are not alone and the help available to them.
Have you cared for a family member or friend with Alzheimer's? Often people find when looking after a loved one, they could have the skills necessary to become a carer. Why not apply now or get in touch with our branches to find out more!