This week is Dementia Action Week, championed by the Alzheimer's Society. The theme for 2023 is based on dementia diagnosis and has been designed to encourage individuals and their family members to recognise symptoms for an early diagnosis. Dementia Action Week serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding, supporting and raising awareness about this condition.
Dementia is not a single disease, but rather an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that affect memory and thinking to the extent that it can interfere with daily functioning. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, but there are many other types of dementia as well. It is estimated that there are currently over 55 million people worldwide living with dementia, and this number is expected to triple by 2050.
At Abbeyfield, we recognise that a timely diagnosis is crucial to future care and treatment, enabling residents to decide what's best for them whilst they are still able to make important decisions around their care and on legal and financial matters.
According to The Alzheimer's Society's research, there has been a decline in dementia diagnosis rates, which has been attributed to misconceptions surrounding memory loss as a natural aspect of ageing, as well as denial and lengthy referral times to specialists posing as significant obstacles when it comes to motivating individuals to pursue a diagnosis.
The Alzheimer's Society is encouraging those who might be worried about dementia to use an accredited symptoms checklist which has been developed by and endorsed by the Royal College of GP's. It's a simple, free tool which is designed to allow people concerned about their symptoms to communicate them without the pressure of an appointment with a healthcare professional.
This is an important aspect of the tool as it's often a very worrying and stressful process getting a possible dementia diagnosis and it's essential that the person being diagnosed feels supported and listened to at their own pace.
Here at Abbeyfield we have a range of dementia related services available if you or a family member have just received a dementia diagnosis. Alongside our many dementia-friendly care homes, Abbeyfield supports our residents living with dementia in the following ways.
Dementia Friends at Abbeyfield
We offer Dementia Friends information sessions to all of our staff, volunteers and residents to help alleviate some of the stigmas attached to dementia and give a better understanding of how we can all help those living with the condition.
Throughout the country we have Dementia Friends Champions who facilitate sessions to our staff and volunteers, encouraging them to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in our houses and homes.
The Virtual Dementia Tour
We use The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) as a way to better empathise with our residents and learn what it’s like to live with dementia. The VDT is medically and scientifically proven to be the closest we can give a person with a healthy brain to experience what dementia might be like. Invented 20 years ago in America by PK Beville, the VDT aims to give people the ability to understand dementia by walking in the shoes of a person with the disease.
At Abbeyfield, we ensure all of our care home staff, as well as staff in our supported housing and offices, have the opportunity to take part in the VDT and use it as part of their training. We have found that this helps us create a positive environment for those with dementia to live in and ensures staff make more informed decisions for and about our residents as we have a closer idea of the challenges they are coping with.
Sensory Rooms & Bespoke Activities
Many of our dementia-friendly homes offer bespoke activities that are proven to calm, stimulate and help those living with dementia. Some also offer a sensory room – a space where residents can take part in bespoke activities and safely explore all five senses. Sensory rooms can be used for both calming and stimulating they can enhance feelings of comfort and well-being, relieve stress and pain and maximize a person’s potential to focus, all of which help improve communication and memory.
Some activities Abbeyfield houses and homes offer those living with dementia include arts and crafts, flower arranging, board games, walks, dance and storytelling/memory related activities. You can read more about activities for those living with dementia on the NHS website.
Find more useful guides for people with dementia
Living well with dementia
At Abbeyfield, we want all of our residents living with dementia to live the way they want. In this section you'll find out about the ways Abbeyfield supports our residents living with dementia and a list of organisations you might find useful.
Helpful organisations for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s
A list of helpful organisations for those living with dementia.
Talking to loved ones with dementia
According to the NHS there are currently 850,000 people in the UK who are living with dementia. Conversations with loved ones with dementia can sometimes be difficult to understand which can be upsetting for family members. Yet, the more you speak with your loved one, the more you’ll be able to adjust and change what you say to continue to have meaningful and thoughtful conversations.