Dementia diagnosis increases globally with an estimated 850000 people affected in UK. It affects mostly the ageing population but not exclusively.
Dementia is the progressive deterioration of our cognitive function as we begin to develop problems with our memory, concentration, communication, and with our ability to carry out our daily routine activities, amongst others. In our communities, we often come across families who seek our help because they are concerned about their loved ones struggling with such symptoms that gradually get worse. They often report that they worry about how they will be able to manage the appropriate long-term care that will be needed in times to come. Husbands and wives get frustrated with the changes in the behaviour of their spouses due to their dementia, along with their children who also appear to struggle with coming to terms with the distressing reality of the diagnosis.
Indeed, denial is often very prominent in these presenting concerns which compromises the potential of approaching the deteriorating changes in a helpful way. Such a way suggests that people should put themselves in the dementia sufferer’s shoes in order for them to be able to understand what it must feel like to start losing your memory and your familiar ways of functioning in life. In consequence to this denial, the commonly recognised reaction of annoyance towards the family member who no longer appears to remember, behave, or engage in a conversation in the way they used to, exposes the sufferer more to the risk of abuse. This is why we need to be constantly reminded of the fact that whilst gradually their cognitive abilities decline, their dignity and respect should be fully accorded. In our efforts to do so, we can help the person feel comfortable, reassured, safe, and involved. We can give them choice, be patient and use gentle reminders when they get disorientated or confused. We can encourage their independence and praise them when they manage well. In other words, continuously show them that we are on their side so that they do not lose their trust in us.
If you are worried about someone you think may suffer from dementia, approach their GP who will first assess and refer the patient to the appropriate services. There are a number of causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury and strokes, amongst others. Nowadays people can also find a great deal of useful information online, with Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK being some of the most accessible resources, which readers will find helpful. Gaining knowledge on the condition and offering psychological support to both the care givers and sufferers have proven in our experience to be vital in coping with this very challenging state of existence.
Psychotherapist for the Alpha Care Counselling Services