THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA EXPLAINED
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not the same thing. Dementia is a general term used to describe many progressive diseases that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific disease of the brain that causes dementia. Many people use the two terms interchangeably when discussing the similarities and differences between the two.
Here you can learn more about the differences between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA?
Dementia is not a disease, but an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms caused by over one hundred different progressive diseases that affect the brain. Common symptoms include problems with memory, thinking, problem solving, language and perception -all of which can have a traumatic impact on a person’s ability to live a healthy, happy and independent life.
Of the diseases that cause dementia symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common affecting between 50%-75% of people living with dementia. Other common types of dementia are vascular dementia, affecting around 20% of those diagnosed and dementia with Lewy bodies, affecting around 2%.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease occurs when abnormal structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ build up inside the brain. These disrupt how nerve cells work and communicate with each other, and eventually cause them to die. There is also a shortage of some important chemicals in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced levels of these chemicals mean that messages don’t travel around as well as they should.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are typically mild to start with but get worse over time as more brain cells are damaged. This can have a significant impact on a persons’ day to day life and ability to live independently, which can be very distressing and upsetting not just for the person living with the condition but also their family and loved ones.
The first signs that a person has Alzheimer’s disease is problems with memory, which impact a person’s ability to recall recent events, as well as learning new information. However, the person’s memory of events of the longer-term past can remain vivid in the early stages of the disease.
Speech and language
Alzheimer’s disease can impact people’s thinking and ability to find the right words. They may also struggle to follow a conversation with language becoming muddled and/or repetitive.
Concentration, planning or organising
People living with Alzheimer’s disease will have difficulty making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks, such as cooking a meal.
Another symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is confusion and people living with the disease may lose track of time – the day or time of day.
Coping with a dementia diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be a distressing moment, whether it comes as a shock or confirms what you have suspected for some time. Naturally it will prompt fears about the future, particularly if it means leaving your home and going into a care home.
It is important to remember that by giving your condition a name, it doesn’t change who you are as a person or how you live your life. In many cases people come to feel that a diagnosis is a positive step as you are now empowered to taking appropriate steps to improve the quality of the persons life and minimise the impact of dementia.
Supporting people to stay at home with Alzheimer’s disease
We know receiving care in the comfort, safety and familiarity of your own home has far reaching benefits in improving overall health and wellbeing for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease. When an individual is living with Alzheimer’s disease the process of moving to a care home, away from their much-loved home full of its treasured possessions and memories can be really heart-wrenching and daunting, affecting their ability to live well with dementia. We know that staying at home and receiving compassionate, one-to-one care from a highly trained and well-matched professional carer improves quality of life and health outcomes for an individual living with Alzheimer’s disease. Our personalised approach to providing high quality dementia care, with a fully managed and flexible service that families can rely on is setting the standards in live-in care.
“My father has dementia and was unhappy in a care home. I watched his decine with much sadness. The move back home with a live-in carer has been seamless. He is visibly happier and relaxed, which is so nice for the family to see.”
Mrs S Anderson
Specialist, adaptable care no matter where you are in your journey
Our work with the Contented Dementia Trust to introduce the SPECAL approach to dementia care helps us to understand and discover what is important to the person living with dementia, enabling us to develop a purposeful and meaningful programme of care. All of our professional carers are trained in the SPECAL approach to dementia care and our management team complete a higher-level dementia care training programme. It doesn’t stop there. Our care teams receive on-going coaching, mentoring and support based on latest thinking and research that ensure they have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to deliver positive dementia care.
“The Good Care Group provide excellent carers, who looked after both my parents and the house. They coped so well with my mother’s dementia and made her calmer through their approach. They have become family friends. I never have to worry about their care.”
What is the SPECAL approach?
Core to the SPECAL approach is making a present of the past and through various techniques it aims to understand dementia from the perspective of the person living with dementia:
Life history work: this works positively with people’s ability to access treasured memories of the past and re-engage with these using words and gestures to make sense of daily life in the present.
Validation techniques: these respect the feelings of the person, acknowledging the importance of their opinions and thereby avoiding direct contradiction or correction which can only further confuse and upset them.
We recognise that feelings become increasingly significant to the person living with dementia, and that intact memories from the past become increasingly useful as a replacement for recent lost facts. We use the SPECAL approach to:
Bridge the gap between the person’s past and their activities of daily life in the present.
Develop communication strategies that enable the person with dementia to communicate in ways which make sense to everyone who has contact with them.
Promote emotional well-being and protect from anxiety and worry.
Different stages and approach
There are three stages in the journey of someone living with Alzheimer’s disease – early, mid and late stage dementia and the approach taken by our professional carers will adapt during these stages.
Early stage dementia
At this stage our carers will focus on ensuring the person living with Alzheimer’s disease is able to live as independently as possible with the support they require, which will be provided in a way that looks to enhance their wellbeing.
Strategies can be put in place to support memory loss – writing to do lists, settling on one place to keep certain items, like your wallet and keys, and having a pad close by to take notes.
Lifestyle choices will be encouraged and actively promoted by our carer. Eating well and exercising regularly, as well as keeping the brain active through completing puzzles, reading and socialising are all proven to have a positive impact on wellbeing.
A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s is likely to experience changes in their mood and easily become anxious, depressed or more easily annoyed and some will lose interest in their life. Our carers are trained to work with this situation and encourage and stimulate positive attitude and thinking to life spirits and enhance wellbeing.
Mid stage dementia
While everyone’s journey with dementia is different, the signs of the middle stage of the disease can mark the moment when changes to the care arrangements are necessary. The middle stage can be the longest and sometimes the most challenging for the person with the condition and those that care for you.
Our professional carers are trained to identify changing care needs and move at your pace, adapting their approach as needs increase.
They can offer physical support, should you now need help with bathing, dress and eating, as well as encouraging gentle exercise that maintains strength and mobility.
The carers employed by The Good Care Group are sensitive to emotions and respond positively to any signs of distress, finding shared, simplified language that enables the person living with Alzheimer’s disease to communicate and express feelings.
Late stage dementia
Dementia in all forms is a progressive condition and by the time it reaches later stages it is very likely that you will need round-the-clock support. During this stage the person living with Alzheimer’s disease is likely to have become extremely frail, with severe memory loss and may well have trouble with communicating, eating and even swallowing. They may also spend long periods of time inactive and become prone to infections.
Communication is key at this stage. All our carers are trained to have meaningful interactions with those they are caring for when speech is limited – eye contact, gestures or shared experiences all provide ways to make a connection. Listening to a piece of music together can help someone feel safe, connected and loved.
During late stage dementia more specialist medical care may be needed. At The Good Care Group our care teams are supported by leading clinical experts in the field of dementia care who guide our approach. Carers can draw on the expertise of our in-house Consultant Admiral Nurse and Occupational Therapist. Carers proactively use techniques required for safe moving, pre-empting medical issues, identifying infections that reduce medical admission. For many our care is life changing with fewer falls, less infections and reliance on antipsychotic drugs.
SPECIALIST DEMENTIA CARE AT HOME PROVIDED BY EXPERT CARERS
We have been innovating dementia care for over 10 years. All our professional carers are trained in how to care for someone living with dementia and use a range of best practice techniques proven to provide reassurance, reduce anxiety and calm behaviours, whilst reducing the need to use antipsychotic drugs used widely in many care home settings.
Despite the challenges dementia can present, with the gentle encouragement and compassionate care provided by our dementia carers, our clients can live well with dementia. The high-quality care provided by our dementia carers has seen a 66% reduction in the use of antipsychotic medications compared with the average care home.
Our collaborative approach to working with leading medical experts, academic bodies and leading charities ensure our care is of the very highest standards.
We recognise that feelings become increasingly significant to the person living with dementia, and that intact memories from the past become increasingly useful as a replacement for recent lost facts.
We adopt a blended approach to delivery of dementia care, led and supported by our own Consultant Admiral Nurse, Dr Jane Prichard. This support from an Admiral Nurse, combined with our work with one of the UK’s leading dementia charities, Dementia UK, means we can offer unrivalled levels of emotional and practical support to those living with dementia and their families.
All of our professional carers are trained in how to care for those living with dementia and our management team completes a higher-level dementia care training programme. It does not stop there; our care teams receive on-going coaching, mentoring and support based on latest thinking and research that ensure they have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to deliver positive dementia care.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN OUR SERVICE?
Our highly personalised live-in care dementia service includes:
Full assessment before care starts
Bespoke and flexible care plan developed with input from the family and other healthcare professionals
Matching of the most suitable care team to meet the holistic needs of our clients
Dedicated care team led by an expert regional care manager
Meal planning and household tasks
Social activities and lifestyle enhancement
Specialist support and expertise - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Access to clinical expertise and medical support
“My parents are now able to live a peaceful life thanks to the carers provided by The Good Care Group, despite the dementia and physical issues of older age.”
Useful dementia resources
To support you and your family we have created a useful Dementia Care Guide which provides you with information and advice on how to provide person-centred dementia care following a diagnosis of dementia. There is also a number of dementia charities across the UK who provide families with help, advice and support when they need it most, including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.