At our home we have many years’ experience of providing compassionate, innovative and person-centred care for people living with dementia.

What is dementia?

The term ‘dementia’ describes several conditions that impact brain functioning. Common signs include loss of memory, difficulty in retaining or processing information or communicating. It can affect how someone feels and behaves, severely interfering with their daily life. The onset can be slow, with the initial changes in the brain occurring years or even decades before a diagnosis is made, and gradually worsening over time.

According to the NHS over 940,000 people in the UK live with dementia, with that number predicted to rise to over a million by 2030.

Signs of dementia

People may develop physical symptoms and display emotions and/or behaviours that seem out of character. These vary – depending on age, lifestyle, physical health, personality and overall outlook on life – so one person may not have the same indicators as another.

These include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Altering sleep patterns
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss

These include:

  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Social withdrawal and lack of interest in activities
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings, shouting or aggressive behaviour
  • Hiding, hoarding and losing items
  • Saying and doing uncharacteristic things, such as making false accusations

These include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Disorientation – confusing day and night, being unable to find their way around familiar surroundings
  • Communication difficulties – repeating words, difficulty in finding the right words or finishing sentences
  • Inability to focus and perform routine daily tasks

Types of dementia

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common type. It is caused by the build-up of amyloid and tau proteins, causing a loss of connectivity between brain cells and the cells’ eventual death.

Vascular dementia

The second most common type of dementia occurs when blood flow is restricted (often from narrowing or blockage of blood vessels), reducing the brain’s oxygen supply and damaging or killing brain cells. It can come on gradually or suddenly after a stroke.

Other types include dementia with Lewy bodies (which is closely aligned with Parkinson’s disease), mixed dementia, usually a combination of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia and Frontotemporal dementia. This affects parts of the brain responsible for behaviour, planning, speech and recognising familiar objects.

Getting a dementia assessment

Dementia can be difficult to diagnose because many early signs can be caused by other common conditions and there is, as yet, no definitive test.

The first port of call is usually a GP who will talk to the person and someone who knows them well, look at their medical history and note how and when symptoms started and the impact of these on daily life. The GP will check any medication and possibly take blood or urine samples or order a chest X-ray to rule out other causes. Usually, if dementia is suspected, the GP will refer the person to a community mental health team or a dementia specialist for further tests.

A diagnosis of dementia can be difficult to come to terms with, for the family as well as for the person with dementia, and all may experience feelings such as anger, resentment, grief or frustration.

Seeking care

People experiencing dementia often become confused about their surroundings, and many families seek residential or nursing care because they fear for their safety and/or because they cannot cope with their loved one’s changing needs. There is a process to follow which incorporates a medical or social services assessment, to determine the degree and type of care that you or your relative needs, plus an assessment of your finances to determine who should pay for the care.

Our dementia care

We provide high-quality, 24-hour dementia care and our staff are extremely experienced in looking after people living with dementia. Families can be totally reassured that their loved ones will remain safe and cared for with compassion and dignity.

Getting to know and understand residents who have had a diagnosis of dementia is vital. That is why we take the time to talk to their family about their preferences and routine before they move into the home. The more we can understand about who they are and their life before the onset of dementia, the better our care and nursing teams can meet their needs and make them feel comfortable and settled.  This is called a pre-admission assessment and is carried out by our home manager or senior member of the team, either by telephone or usually in the comfort of your own home, with yourself or someone who knows your care needs well. We use this information to create a care plan that is tailored to your individual requirements. We will develop this with you, and by talking to your family, so that we can get to know you as much as possible before you move in. This is vitally important as it helps us to understand all your needs and ensure that we can look after you safely.

Because dementia is a progressive condition, we constantly assess our residents’ physical, mental and emotional health to ensure that we continue to meet their changing needs. We treat our residents entirely as individuals. For example, because dementia affects many people’s sleep patterns, making them restless at night, our carers vary our residents’ routine according to what they need. We never insist that someone gets up at a certain time. After all, this is their home, and at home we all want a lie-in from time to time!

We also support our dementia residents’ dietary requirements with a range of modified food options if they have difficulty in chewing or swallowing. We understand if they cannot eat a full meal at one go or are simply not hungry at conventional mealtimes.

A soothing home environment

Life can be confusing for people living with dementia. Everyday objects such as ornaments, mirrors, rugs, patterned floors or wallpaper can become difficult to understand or even threatening. For example, dark rugs or shadows can appear as holes while reflections can be upsetting, as often someone with dementia does not know the person in the mirror.

Our home is airy and spacious with plain-coloured walls, plenty of natural light and non-glare electric lighting to reduce confusion, distress and the risk of falls. It’s important to provide enough stimuli for the memory, too, so our dementia care units feature a range of images – Hollywood stars, sports personalities or vintage photos, for example. You may see pictures on their door or familiar items in memory boxes outside their room, which help them to recognise their new room.

Our activities

We offer a varied programme of activities to ensure that residents lead an active and fulfilled life, supporting them to live as independently as possible – including those whose symptoms of dementia make life challenging for them – and maximising their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

Our wellbeing team spends time understanding what stimulates and interests each resident, noting this in their personal care plan. The team organises a twice-daily programme of activities including exercise, singing, crafts, gardening and cookery, sometimes with the help of visiting specialists in exercise and music. Music can be especially powerful – familiar tunes from youth can bring great joy, and it is not uncommon for people who rarely, or never, speak, to sing along to favourite tunes, or for those who spend most of their time sitting to get up and dance.

We try to tap into memories, recalling past skills, experiences and interests. Reminiscence activities, where residents are encouraged to handle familiar objects (old and new), help to comfort and reassure people whose view of their world is changing because of dementia. Many residents love animals and have enjoyed having pets in the past. So we organise regular visits from friendly dogs and some of our residents’ guests bring their dogs along. Our residents also particularly enjoy nursing dolls or cuddling lifelike robotic cats or dogs.

Our staff

Our staff who look after people living with dementia have additional, specialist training and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how dementia affects behaviour. They are expert in meeting our residents’ complex needs, for example, recognising non-verbal cues that communicate when someone is bored, unhappy or simply tired.

Supporting our families

We understand how difficult it can be for relatives to see a loved one with dementia. When someone no longer recognises you, or their personality changes, it is natural to grieve for the person you feel you are losing. We spend time helping families to come to terms with what is happening, and how to handle it. You are very much part of the home’s family, too. Our residents’ needs come first, but you will always be welcome to visit and talk to the care teams about any aspect of your loved one’s care.