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Dementia

As we get older, we all begin to lose some of our mental abilities, like thinking and remembering. This is a normal process of ageing.

However sometimes this is more severe, and your doctor may decide it is dementia. If you are struggling to cope with Dementia, there is a lot of help and support available.

About dementia

If you're becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you're over the age of 65, it may be a good idea to talk to your GP about the early signs of dementia.

As you get older, you may find that memory loss becomes a problem. It's normal for your memory to be affected by age, stress, tiredness, or certain illnesses and medications. This can be annoying if it happens occasionally, but if it's affecting your daily life or is worrying you or someone you know, you should seek help from your GP.

The NHS has lots of information about dementia, and care and support

Benefits of early dementia diagnosis

Dementia is one of the health conditions that people are most frightened of. 

You may find it hard to accept that memory problems are affecting your life. If you're concerned about memory or other problems associated with dementia, it's normal to be reluctant to seek help and face such a diagnosis. However, there are potential benefits to getting medical advice.

Being diagnosed early can help you get the right treatments and find the best sources of support, as well as making decisions about the future. Find out about symptoms of dementia.

Worried about someone who may have dementia

If someone you know is becoming increasingly forgetful, you should encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia

Dementia is a group of related symptoms that indicate problems with the brain. One of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss.

There are other reasons someone might be experiencing memory loss. However, if dementia is detected early, in some cases its progress can be slowed, and the person affected may maintain their mental function.

Caring for someone with dementia

If you have dementia, or you are looking after someone who has dementia, you are likely to face many practical issues in your daily life.

People with dementia can feel vulnerable as their condition progresses and they increasingly rely on other people to do things for them. It is important that people who have dementia feel reassured and supported, while retaining some level of independence.

The Alzheimer’s Society have produced a factsheet, understanding and supporting a person with dementia.

Each person is unique, with their own life history, personality, likes and dislikes. It is very important to focus on what the person still does have, not on what they may have lost. It is also important to focus on what the person feels rather than what they remember.

However, dementia has many effects. Most people experience memory difficulties and problems with thinking.

If you care for a disabled child, or an adult or older person, Carers of Barking and Dagenham can offer you independent advice, support and practical help.

Legal affairs for someone with dementia

Symptoms of dementia will become worse over time. That's why it's important to get an early diagnosis for making plans for the future as soon as possible.

There may be a time in the future when your symptoms mean you are no longer able to give consent. You may wish to give a relative you trust the power to make decisions about you if you are unable to. This is known as power of attorney.

Consent to treatment

Symptoms of dementia will become worse over time. That's why it's important to get an early diagnosis for making plans for the future as soon as possible.

These plans should include ensuring your wishes are upheld should you not be able to make decisions for yourself - also called lacking or impaired "capacity".

Consent to treatment if your capacity is impaired by dementia

The Mental Capacity Act is designed to protect people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Under the Act, a person is presumed to have capacity "unless all practical steps to help him (or her) to make a decision have been taken without success". 

Giving your consent means you must give express permission before any medical treatment can be carried out on you. Consent is needed for all treatments, whether it's a simple blood test or an organ donation.

The only time when treatment can go ahead without your permission is if you cannot make a decision on your own and the doctors responsible for your care believe that treatment is in your best interests. 

Dementia and end of life planning

People with dementia often live for many years after their diagnosis. The symptoms of dementia are likely to get worse over time, and it's wise to make plans well in advance of a person's condition deteriorating.

Everyone who has been diagnosed with dementia should have a care plan drawn up with healthcare professionals. End of life care should be a key part of this dementia care plan.

The NHS Choices end of Life planner has detailed information on planning for the end of life, including why it's important to plan ahead, what to expect, how to prepare for it, and taking care of someone's wellbeing in the meantime. End of life planning should also consider financial affairs and planning.