The number of people with dementia is steadily increasing in the UK and a continual growth in numbers is expected over the next 25 years. Recent figures are showing that more than twice the number of people have dementia before the age of 65 than was previously thought. This includes cases of those in their 40’s and 30’s with the condition being a little more common amongst men than women. As there are 7.7 million new cases of dementia reported every year with new people being diagnosed every few seconds, the burden on families and the NHS will continue to weigh heavily.
Discovering that a loved one has dementia can be a frightening time for not only the individual but also their family. As time passes the family will find that their relationship with the person suffering from dementia will change a great deal. There will no doubt be a kind of grieving process as family come to terms with losing the person they loved. The changes that will occur over the years will mean the family members acting as carers will go through a variety of feelings from fear, sadness to frustration and stress.
Dementia can have a huge impact on an individual’s behaviour. Whilst some can feel anxious and confused others will feel anger and frustration. Common behaviour includes repetition of questions and actions, aggression, shouting and screaming, suspicion of people including loved ones and walking or pacing back and forth. Carers have to try to remember that these behaviours are their family member’s way of trying to communicate how they feel. Repetition can mean the person is bored so trying to engage them in an activity they enjoy such as music or art can help.
The walking or pacing behaviour is very common amongst dementia sufferers and this can lead to people leaving their own house and getting lost. They may leave the house with the intention of going somewhere such as the shops or to see a friend and they may forget where they are going. If they forget who they are, where they are and what they were in the middle of doing they could become totally confused and lost. For family members this can be one of the most upsetting and distressing issues relating to the condition. Ensure the local community know that your loved one has dementia and leave a contact number just in case they are concerned with behaviour they are displaying. There are some devices on the market that could help put your mind at rest such as a family GPS tracker which will send and alert to your mobile phone if they wander out of a particular zone set by you. It means you can see your family member’s movements any time you want throughout the day.
People with dementia can become aggressive and family members can find this very upsetting, more distressing than their memory loss. The aggressive behaviour can be caused by a combination of fear, frustration, depression, and loss of self-control. It can often be the only way they can express themselves. The more you understand the condition, the better you can support and understand the person you are caring for but it is totally natural to feel stressed and frustrated yourself. Caring can put a certain amount of strain on the individual and connecting with caring organisations and other carers can be an outlet for your feelings. There are also specialist dementia organisations that can help you come to terms with the emotions you are feeling. Avoiding stress and feelings of isolation and depression is essential to avoid burn-out. To be able to continue supporting your loved one don’t forget to look after yourself, physically and emotionally so you can retain the strength you need to carry on.