Fear can often prevent people worried about possible dementia symptoms from seeking the help and reassurance they so desperately need. But in a bid to remove the stigma surrounding dementia, Swindon Dementia Action Alliance are determined to help make Swindon a truly dementia-friendly place to live.
With the aim of improving understanding and awareness of the needs of people living with dementia, the alliance has teamed up with the Alzheimer's Society to provide free, hour long information sessions to help the whole community take shared responsibility for improving the lives of those affected by the disease.
Seeking help early is one of the alliance's primary messages.
"Fear of dementia can make people put their head in the sand and not go and see their GP about symptoms they may be having", explains a spokesman for the Alliance.
"However an early diagnosis can make a positive difference. There is no denying it will be an emotional time but diagnosis can lead to identifying services that can help, some welfare benefits you may be entitled to, and there are some drugs that can help keep people living with some types of dementia in the earlier stages for longer.
Of course, the doctor may also discover you don’t have dementia but a different condition that shows similar symptoms but can be treated in a different way, such as infection, thyroid problems and depression for example."
If diagnosis is made early it becomes possible to make plans and introduce changes that can have a significant impact on a person's ability to live well with the disease.
It's important to remember that diagnosis may provide a label, but life doesn't end there.
"After a diagnosis, someone won’t magically change overnight, the label will stay there, but who that person was before that label was applied is still there too. It’s important to remember the person and what makes them happy in life and continue with this where possible."
A few simple changes to the home environment can also make a big difference in making everyday tasks easier to cope with.
"When the environment is not quite right for someone living with dementia, it can make symptoms worse. A common symptom in people living with dementia are sight and perception problems. There may be nothing wrong with their eyes but how these signals are interpreted in the brain can go awry."
"A change in colour or contrast in a doorway threshold might look like a step, or a black mat on the floor might look like a hole, a door the same colour as the skirting and wall might become invisible. You can see how confusion and agitation may happen more often, especially if you need the loo but can’t find the way out of a room."
Staying active and maintaining social contacts is similarly important.
"Some of the difficulties faced by people living with dementia are not due to the damage to their brain but caused by difficulties in understanding and relating to their environment. In the same way, someone who has nothing to do may become withdrawn, this is not a symptom of the dementia but a result of what is happening around them and a lack of stimulation and purpose. Factors like the ones mentioned can be changed and this is really important to understand as it can help people with dementia to live well."
The information sessions run by the Alzhieimer's Society are an hour long, are free to attend, and everyone is welcome. Visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk to find a session running locally or watch their online video.
Source: www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk 10/05/17