Understanding Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 50 and 75% of all dementia cases. In total there are over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. Due to our ageing population, more and more people will be living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the years to come.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease, or simply ‘Alzheimer’s’, is a form of dementia which affects memory, cognitive ability and behaviour. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s often also have vascular dementia. It most commonly affects older people, with 1 in every 6 people over 80 meeting the criteria for diagnosis. However, early-onset Alzheimer’s accounts for 1 in 20 cases of the disease, and is the name for those diagnosed before the age of 65, with some people unfortunately developing the disease in their forties.

Memory difficulties are the classic and usually earliest symptom, but the changes start happening in the brain before this is evident. Alzheimer’s is degenerative, meaning that symptoms will worsen over time. That said; it is possible to live a meaningful and fulfilling life for many years after diagnosis. The rate of decline varies from individual to individual. It is not easy to predict.

It’s a mistake to think of Alzheimer’s as a normal part of ageing; it’s not. Although the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age, with the majority of individuals living with this form of dementia being over 65, it is not typical ageing. There is no cure - Alzheimer’s is a disease which needs to be treated and managed.

The cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully established. We do know that those with Alzheimer’s develop more abnormal brain structures in the memory centres of their brain, known as plaques and tangles, but why this is, is not yet clear.

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Typically, most people first question whether they are experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms when they begin to experience small memory difficulties, such as forgetting words, names, getting lost, confused or simple processes. These memory lapses usually apply to recent memory and newly learned information, especially in the early days of the disease.

Memory symptoms develop over time, but they aren’t the only symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Other symptoms include:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Speech, language and communication difficulties
  • Difficulties making and executing plans
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Struggles with daily routines and tasks
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Personality and behavioural changes such as becoming more aggressive
  • Mobility difficulties (these tend to come later)
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulties swallowing (again, this usually comes later)

It can be very distressing for both the individual and their loved ones, and denial that there is a problem is quite normal. However, getting help can ensure the individual with Alzheimer’s, and their family, receive support to live well. Recognising that there is a problem can require honesty and compassion. The right support enables the individual to be fully involved with plans, preparations and decisions about their future.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one has signs of Alzheimer’s disease, make an appointment with your GP. We recommend attending the appointment with a loved one to help support you and understand what is discussed. You may then be referred to a specialist or ‘memory clinic’.

Following a diagnosis, you may be given medication and treatment to help alleviate some of the symptoms. Most importantly, you will need to consider having the right support in place so that you can live confidently and independently with Alzheimer’s, ideally in your own home.

Being at home in your own familiar surroundings is so important to many people, and helps to reduce the anxiety for both the patient and their family.

Living well with Alzheimer’s disease

In order to live well with Alzheimer’s, changes need to be made to the home as well as living environment and arrangements. This makes it safer and easier in the face of memory difficulties and the other symptoms of the disease.

At Bluebird Care Newmarket, we are able to offer tailored care for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in their own home around Newmarket, Ely, March and King's Lynn; so that individuals and their loved ones are appropriately supported. Contact our team today on 01353 883333 or email NewmarketandFenland@bluebirdcare.co.uk.

How to find the right care for you or your relative

1. Find your local office

Bluebird Care delivers care from locally based offices, find yours to start your care journey today.

2. Get in touch with us

Fill in our call back form or give us a call to find out how we can help you.

3. Assessment

We’ll come out to you to find out what you or your loved one needs to help stay independent at home.

4. Care team chosen & care starts

You'll be cared for by our specially trained team to support you to remain at home for as long as possible.

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