Last week we marked World Alzheimer’s day. Despite the large numbers of people who have Alzheimer’s, many people still do not understand the disease, and admittedly not so long ago I was one of these people.
Alzhheimer’s is a type of dementia. There are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and this is expected to increase to 2,000,000 by 2025.
However, over the summer I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to volunteer in a day care center for older people with dementia and I learned so much, not only about individuals, but also debunking the some myths about the disease!
Today I will share a few of my experiences with you and a few of the lessons I learned!
- Many people seem to think that people with dementia don’t know what they want and don’t know what’s going on.
This myth was one which I quickly learned was wrong. Being with the elderly people meant that I was never far from the kettle to make the older people a brew!
However, each person liked it in a different way, be it with 2 and a half sugars, a spoonful of honey or “just a drop more milk, love”, and each person knew exactly what they wanted!
- Another myth associated with dementia is that once you have it there is nothing you can do.
However again this is wrong. The day care centre I volunteered at was not like the typical care home with older people sleeping and snoozing all day.
In the day care centre there is never a still time, older people are always dancing, singing, playing games, reminiscing, going to garden parties and even going to the onsite pub!
Dementia is a progressive condition and even if someone has it, they can be just as capable as any other older person.
- Often people think that if you have someone in your family has Alzheimer’s, then you will get it too.
However again this is not the case, only 5% of cases of Alzheimer’s is passed on through the family.
People with parents or siblings with the disease are at greater risk however, some research indicates that by making changes in your lifestyle to make you healthier might help to reduce the likelihood of developing some sorts of dementia, particularly vascular type dementia
Finally people are often scared to talk to or approach a person with dementia. The biggest message I would like to get across in this blog is that often people just want to talk.
Giving ten minutes of your day to listen to the memories of how someone with dementia worked in Ireland where she met her husband or how she loved to play piano and her favorite song was Clair de lune will go a long way.
Although it is only a chat for you, it is sparking memories in the mind of the person with dementia.