Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
All over the globe the month of September is observed as world Alzheimer’s month with September the 21st marking Alzheimer’s day.
Why Is There A Need For An Alzheimer’s Awareness Month?
Dementia affects millions of individuals right across the globe – current statistics estimate that over 46 million people worldwide suffer from some form of dementia. In spite of the number of people affected, there is still a surprising lack of awareness regarding the condition and a great need to raise understanding – this is in some part, due to the stigma associated with it.
Alzheimer’s awareness month, set up by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), aims not only to educate the general population all over the world on dementia and tackle the stigma attached to it, but to also target those in official positions in order to raise awareness of the serious nature of this health condition, its need for funding and the wider implications for health services, care homes and families. This special month also helps all Alzheimer’s associations around the world to gain recognition.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The most common form of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder which affects various brain functions such as memory, thinking, emotion and behaviour. The onset of the condition is usually characterised by minor symptoms such as forgetting recent conversations, names of places or objects. However, as the condition progresses, symptoms usually become more severe. Individuals may suffer from one or more of the following:
Confusion and disorientation in familiar places
A need to walk about
Difficulty in self care or moving around
Professional Care And Alzheimer’s
Following diagnosis and a thorough assessment of the individual, a care plan will drawn up to ensure the right treatment and support are provided. Areas where the sufferer of dementia may need extra assistance are identified and a plan of action is outlined. Medical specialists such as Psychiatrists, Neurologists and Geriatricians can prescribe medication to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.
Aside from professional medical care there are other measures that can be taken inside the home to help improve areas of everyday life for both sufferers and carers – helping to establish a routine and reduce anxiety.
The following are just some of the supportive measures available for sufferers of dementia.
Handrails And Grab Bars
People with dementia may find that their mobility deteriorates as their condition progresses. A handrail is especially useful for the stairs as are grab bars in the bathroom and other locations throughout the house.
Disorientation and confusion are common symptoms as dementia develops, window restrictors are an excellent solution for the dangers created by wide opening windows. The restrictor allows the window to open and fresh air to enter, however the width of the opening is limited – rendering it impossible for any accidental falls to occur. Jackloc window restrictors are used by the NHS as well as a number of private care homes and private hospitals. They can also be used on balcony doors.
This refers to devices or systems that are designed to support those suffering from a range of conditions including dementia. Assistive technology can help improve and maintain safety, independence and well being. Telecare is a well known system which is now available privately as well as through social care. The technology can be used in a variety of ways to make Alzheimer’s more manageable, helping relatives and carers look after the sufferer. It may include electrical monitoring inside the home, tracking systems or a GPS – an individual that has gone out for a walk and is lost can be easily found.
The following are just some examples of assistive technology:
These will register if an individual has fallen, alerting the carer.
Automated shut off devices
The installation of these devices can stop the gas supply if the cooker has been left on for example.
These can help prevent falls in the dark – sensors switch the lights on as soon as movement is detected.
Water isolation devices
If a tap is left running, it will automatically shut off preventing flooding.
Automated prompts and reminders
Telephones can be set to send automatic alerts and reminders of appointments or to take medication at a particular time. Other types of reminders, based on motion sensors can be set to activate reminders to lock the door or turn off the oven.
A clock is also helpful, as some sufferers may become confused as to what time of day it is, especially in summer time when daylight hours are extended – a clock can also be helpful in establishing a routine.
Having a timetable of the week on a tablet or even on the wall can be helpful and reassuring for the sufferer.
All of the above are important not only for the individual's safety and psychological well being, but also for family members and carers. Looking after loved ones with dementia can be worrying – by implementing as many safety supportive measures as possible, the condition is easier to manage, reducing anxiety in both suffers and carers alike.