Sunday, 29 May 2016

The essence of the person

Some time ago now, a neighbour was asking after S and I tried to explain that, even though she can hardly speak or do much for herself she is still, demonstrably, S. The neighbour, who has had some experience of dementia said, 'The essence of S is still there!' This summed-up the situation so well that I was overcome with emotion and had to end the conversation.

I realise that we are very lucky in this respect. Some people with dementia turn into a completely different person who may be aggressive and spiteful where they were once friendly and caring, for example. Others may become such a shadow of their former selves that they are barely recognisable even to their loved ones. Some may reach a stage where they do not recognise their loved ones and may become suspicious and wonder why a stranger is in their house.

But S is still very clearly there. She still smiles a lot as she has always done (except for a brief period of about 3 or 4 months when she was tormented and paranoid). She still does her best to be helpful when she is being moved around from commode to bed to wheelchair or 'rolled' from one side to the other whilst being dressed. She still mouths the words to some of her favourites songs when we go to our weekly 'Singing for the Brain' and occasionally actually sings some words softly.

It wasn't so long ago that she clasped a carer's hand after something that had been done for her and said 'Thank you'.

She still understands a good deal of what is said to her, providing she is not too distracted by what is going on in her brain.

Most encouragingly, whenever we help her to stand and take a few paces (with a good deal of support) the determination she shows is unmistakeable.

She was always a quietly determined person  -  it's part of her essence.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The way the media portray dementia

We need a balanced view of dementia from the media. The smiley grey-haired little old lady and her smiley carer should share the billing with the tormented, paranoid, and violently aggressive person.

We need an understanding that, whilst some people suffering with dementia do die a horrible death others pass away peacefully.

We need it made clear whether they are talking about dementia (a condition which can have many causes) or Alzheimer's (which is now an umbrella term for a growing number of diseases).

In fact we need, and the media should help with this too, to put the word 'Alzheimer's' into the dustbin of history where it belongs, as an outdated description of lots of different diseases. Dr Alzheimer discovered a lot about a specific case of a disease affecting a person in middle age and I'm sure he would be amazed to learn that his name is used as to cover so many different diseases and, often, as a synonym for dementia, which is not a disease but a condition caused by many different diseases. No wonder people are confused about things when the name is used so lazily and ignorantly.

Perhaps most importantly, what cannot be overemphasised is that everyone is different and no two people with dementia have the same journey, though there will always be some similarities between them and  a lot of other people and reading about how other people and their carers are dealing with the issues as they arise can be tremendously helpful.

(We are coming to the end of Dementia Awareness Week in the UK and this post was prompted by some of the media coverage.)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

NHS double standard for people with dementia in care homes

Thanks are due to the Alzheimer's Society for bringing to light what might well be described as a scandal:

Whether anything will change as a result of this revelation remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

'Just in Case' medication

People with dementia, as well as many other people, are sometimes prescribed 'just in case' medication packs as they approach the end of their lives. The general idea is that appropriate medications should be available to those who are caring for the person approaching the end of their life when they are needed rather than when the surgery or pharmacy may be open.

The BMA have published a very useful paper about this:

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Share the Orange

This video is self-explanatory:

Alzheimer’s Is Not Normal Aging — And We Can Cure It

I thought this was worth posting. He says some interesting things but it's a bit of an anti-climax when you realise that, as with so many new ideas that are discussed, there's still a long, long way to go. The images shown from 3.05 are very powerful:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Another fit

When I went to get S into a position so that I could give her her breakfast yesterday morning she winced and clutched the top of the arm that she had probably been sleeping on and then almost immediately went rigid. I got her into the recovery position quickly. She was breathing noisily through her nose. I tried hard to see if her tongue was obstructing her throat but her teeth were clamped tightly together. All S's fits have lasted longer than most I've read about but when it got up to 10 mins I decided it was time to try the Buccolam medication which you squirt inside the cheek. I did this at about 11 or 12 mins. It was easier to squeeze than I thought and all went in on one side with some coming out and there was some choking that quickly subsided.

What I hadn't realised was that it's a sedative - the GP told me this when I phoned after I'd given it - so it was difficult to know initially whether/when the fit had morphed into a pretty deep sleep. She eventually did sleep for a long time. I told him the GP that the oxymeter was showing fluctuations and was mostly in the low nineties which I'd read was a cause for concern but he was happy that it hadn't gone below 90. I'd managed to contact a friend of S's who lives a few streets away and who has given me her number for this purpose. She came round fairly promptly and it was a great help having her there. I phoned the GP again and was reassured that the sleeping was OK - I even got him to listen to her breathing.

Daughter and baby came later and this was also a great help. Things returned to somethings like normal. The only after-effect seemed to be extreme tiredness. She ate and drank and used the commode as normal. We also had a couple of smiles. I think she slept pretty well and had her breakfast as normal so I'm hoping we'll get her to our 'Singing for the Brain' group this afternoon.

But these things are scary when you're on your own.....

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The recent drop in the number of people developing dementia

It has recently become clear that in the UK dementia has fallen by a fifth over the past 20 years. This is possibly down to lifestyle and education changes. If so this highlights the potential benefits of preventative action:

However a letter published in the Guardian suggests another possible reason for the reduction:

I think most people know what a healthy lifestyle involves and it obviously makes sense to try to live healthily. However it is important to realise that there can be no guarantee that a healthy lifestyle will stop the development of dementia in an individual case. And therefore the fact that some people who live a healthy life still develop dementia should not discourage people from taking the steps that may well improve their chances of avoiding dementia.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Reasons for getting a diagnosis

I have always been somewhat somewhat sceptical about the push for more people to get an early diagnosis and I've posted about this before. It took a long time for S's diagnosis to be arrived at, more than a decade. We knew fairly early on that she probably had some form of dementia but nothing more specific.

I know some people and their carers deliberately avoid diagnosis and I can understand this.

However, there are some arguments for seeking a diagnosis:

1) There are drugs available which might help (they may not though and may have side-effects). And some forms of dementia do not really respond to any medication.

2) A diagnosis ought to give you access to a lot of valuable support. But people often report that this desirable result is not forthcoming.

3) Blood tests might show that dementia-like symptoms may be caused by a number of conditions which can often be cured or kept at bay:

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Music on the Brain

I am very grateful to a member of the Alzheimer's Society's 'Talking Point' forum for posting a link to this very interesting video:

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Memory retrieval, not storage, hinders mouse models of Alzheimer’s

I found this report on a research project very interesting:

All the usual caveats apply, of course  -  many years before this knowledge could lead to a treatment, probably doesn't apply to all dementia, etc. But I've always felt that S's most significant problem as the dementia progressed was retrieval of memories rather than storage. I felt many times that the memory was still in there somewhere and occasionally its retrieval could be 'triggered' by an event, what someone else said, a picture, music.....

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by herpes virus, warn experts

Link to an article in the Daily Telegraph:

Regular readers of the blog will know that the herpes virus HSV-1 has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease by several research studies. There are a number of posts that discuss this. Please enter 'herpes' in the search box (top left) to find these posts.

Interestingly, google shows a link to several other major diseases such as MS and type 2 diabetes.