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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

What to do if you suspect a loved one is developing dementia / Alzheimer's


Emily Goddard writes: 

"You’ve gone to your mother’s house to visit. You offer to put the kettle on because she’s tired and parched from being out in the garden. But when you go to get the milk you find a peculiar surprise behind the fridge door. In there, you see out-of-date groceries and her hairbrush. You know your mother always prides herself on keeping an orderly home and that hairbrush belongs on her dressing table. The discovery is made all the more disturbing when you realise she’s been rather forgetful lately, repeating stories she’s already shared with you on phone calls. You also notice a letter about an unpaid bill on the dining table and your mother seems somewhat withdrawn. You have to ask yourself an uncomfortable question: could these be the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease?


Witnessing the cruel cognitive decline of someone you love, not least someone who once was your main carer, is painful and unsettling. However, recognising symptoms and doing something about it means the person can get a diagnosis, if one is necessary, and the help they might need to preserve wellbeing. So how does one act on such suspicions in a sensitive and helpful way? 

When should you broach the subject? 
There can be fewer more upsetting things to talk about with someone than sharing your concerns about their health, but sometimes it is the best thing you can do for them. Knowing when to have that conversation can be tricky though.



Dr Tim Beanland, head of knowledge management at Alzheimer’s Society, suggests the appropriate time to start thinking about having a conversation is when you can see changes that cause concern or begin to affect the person’s quality of life. Be watchful of activities such as changes in how the person drives, for instance, or if they are having minor accidents at home, such as leaving the hob on. “If these are causing you concern, that is the stage I’d want to ask for professional help and do something about it,” says Beanland. 

How do you have that conversation? 
The person may already suspect that something is going on, others may think there is nothing wrong. Firstly, though, it is really important to ask yourself if you are the right person to be having that conversation. If you are, pick the right time and place. Beanland says: “Find somewhere quiet and away from distractions. In case the person agrees they need to see a GP, it helps to talk when the surgery is open so the appointment can be booked there and then.”

Being calm and reassuring is critical. “We say to people, start generally,” Beanland explains. “Don’t jump in and say, ‘I think you’ve got dementia.’ Try, ‘I’m a bit worried about you – have you noticed any changes recently?’ And maybe give them specific examples of your concerns.”

If the person agrees to see a GP, that is a positive step in the right direction because there is help out there for people. However, if the person rejects help things become a little more challenging. You can go to the patient’s GP and tell them you’re concerned but the doctor is not able to share information back with you because of patient confidentially.

In any case, Beanland recommends that the person is accompanied by someone who knows him or her well when seeing a GP, both for support and sometimes to gain the bigger picture. “The son, daughter, partner, etc might have noticed things and, if the person consents to them attending too, these can be shared with the GP,” he says. 

How can you offer emotional support? 
Never underestimate the power of just being there and listening to someone’s feelings. “It will be an emotional roller-coaster,” says Beanland, “but try to imagine as far as possible what it might be like for them because going through that assessment process – if it is dementia, that is a life-changing diagnosis.” He also suggests not leaping ahead but taking one step at a time.



There might be instances, though, when the person does not want to engage and can even become angry. Beanland says: “Doctors, nurses, psychologists and our own helpline can all help people understand and adjust to a diagnosis. Talking to someone can be really helpful in the long run.” 

You are not alone 
It’s really common for people supporting someone with dementia to not look after themselves as well as they should because they feel guilt if they put themselves first. There is help out there. Beanland says: “Reach out to people – can you ask a neighbour or your network of friends to help with shopping or errands? There are also support groups and online communities for carers. It can be quite isolating but don’t feel you have to deal with it alone. Carer burnout is a real issue.” 

Most importantly, don’t forget… 
With the right support, people can live well with dementia. Getting a diagnosis is the first step in unlocking that support when it is needed and it removes some of the uncertainty that the person and their family might be feeling. It can be what allows them to move forward with their life."

If you have been affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease you can call the UK National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22

If any readers know of other helpful telephone numbers/websites etc. do please share them in the comments … you never know who may find it helpful and reassuring.

On a personal note, Alzheimer's runs in my family, and it is a most cruel disease. Having read numerous articles, I believe a lower carb (keto) diet may help with this disease. I don't know this for sure (although more studies are on the internet that support this) … what I do believe is that a whole fresh food diet cannot do any harm, and most whole fresh food is low carb.

Many thanks for reading -
There are many related posts that may also be of interest to you:-
  • Case Study Supports Keto As Treatment For Alzheimer’s disease - see more here 
  • World Health Organization Recommends Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Dementia Risk, as 'reported' by Dr Steve Parker here
  • Plus many other articles (within this blog) related to Alzheimer’s disease, please click on the link and scroll through here
Dear reader, this blog is presented in a magazine style - we hope something for everyone. You will find a variety of articles, studies, thoughts, photographs, music and recipes! However, not all the recipes ideas featured in this blog may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

36 comments:

Tom said...

...this has become a huge problem.

Debbie said...

what a wonderful posting, for me especially. my mom is 86 and showing some signs, it is difficult to distinguish between what is "normal aging" and what is a problem. many thanks for this information!!!

laurie said...

It is such a most horrid disease, any help possible,

Dewena said...

Such good advice here. All too often we hesitate to talk about it with our parents so perhaps it would be good to have some discussions early on with our own children letting them know we want them to talk to us about it later on when they have concerns.

Chris Lally said...

A devastating disease. Thank you for the insight, Jan!

Valerie-Jael said...

Alzheimer's ad other forms of Dementia are difficult and scary for all involved. Valerie

Chatty Crone said...

A sad disease.

Lorrie said...

Such good advice for a difficult situation.

Magic Love Crow said...

Thank you Jan! An important post! Big Hugs!

Jo said...

It's such a terrible disease. My mum died this year, she was suffering from Alzheimers and it runs in my dad's family too. It's terribly sad to see someone you love going through this as they can become a different person from the one you know.

Iris Flavia said...

I thought our neighbour´s wife might suffer from this awful desease. She is in a nursing home now.
We invited him to join us tomorrow (I am worried, he said he sees no joy in life no more - if it´s just two hours, it´s a bit to make him happy. He smiled on the offer at least).
My Grandma suffered from it, too, horrible to see, it "broke my heart".
Read a book / journal of a woman in her 40´s, her hubby, also in his 40´s, got it, also.

Sue said...

Such a devastating disease, thank you for this post xx

DeniseinVA said...

This is such a great article! Having seen a couple of family members and friends, friends spouses, going through this, it will be something I shall pass on to anyone who is needing advice and a little guidance. Thanks Jan :)

natalia20041989 said...

That is such a hortible desease...

happyone said...

It is a heartbreaking thing to watch someone go through. My mom had it. Before she got really bad though her heart gave out. It was really a blessing.

Elephant's Child said...

It is a very, very cruel disease.

Phil Slade said...

Sue's mum suffered terribly for two years and more and eventually became impossible to handle. The whole family and her husband Fred had to watch this terrible disease destroy a much loved wife, mum and grandma. Very sad.

sandy said...

good article. Both my mom and dad died before this could become an issue and so did my husband's parents.

And I refuse to deal with it myself, lol

Susan Kane said...

Living in a retirement community where Alzheimer's is part of the elderly, I have come to appreciate what it does.

thank you for all this info.

William Kendall said...

Only one aunt had it, but she developed cancer that took her before the alzheimers could really progress.

Christine said...

Great tips to know as we age as a society.

My name is Erika. said...

Yup, I've been through lots of this with my Mom who has dementia. It is tough, and I appreciate reading this. Erika Xx

CJ Kennedy said...

My Dad had Alzheimer's and I completely missed a lot of the early warnings until my mother had to go into the nursing home. Dad was really good at masking his symptoms. His world got tossed upside down when Ma went to the nursing home. Then we noticed how quickly Dad went downhill. Though, truth be told, he was already at the bottom of the hill and had been there for some time. Another bit of advice, listen patiently to the stories no matter how many times you have heard them. I realized the stories were my dad's way of passing on the his legacy. Be patient. Smile politely and nod in all the right places.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

This is such good information, Jan. How cruel this horrible disease leaves a person. Support is so important like you said. My husband's brother died of Alzheimer's, so devastating to witness.

Practical Parsimony said...

I have a friend whose diabetes is not controlled well. I call for a welfare check all the time. I have read that repeated bouts of low blood sugar can hasten dementia/alzheimers. I would not abide dying that way. I have plans.

aussie aNNie said...

I just admire your very informative post. I have noticed this in our neighbour lately and though he is active in the community still he repeats the same ol' same ol' thing...sad...xx

Icy BC said...

It is not a good situation to be in for both loved one and caregiver! Patience and compassion go a long way!

Icy BC said...

Compassion and patience go a long way in this situation!

Love Affair with Food said...

This is all great information. Thanks for sharing!

Evi Erlinda said...

Very helpful post.
This information will help caregiver and the patient.

Nadezda said...

It's a terrible disease and many problems, Eddie. Thanks for information!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this information.
Good diet, eating good fresh food can't be a bad thing.
Also keeping blood sugar levels stable must be good, avoid the lows and highs. Chris.

Teresa said...

Es una enfermedad muy triste. Muy buena información.Besitos.

baili said...

this is powerful and very useful piece of writing dear Jan!

sooner or later we all have to face it in life and this is good to keep important points in mind

emotional support is so important in such cases i agree
i am sorry for having patient in family but i think it is something story of almost each family who have elderly members in house
it seems that each disease make it's way through stomach

eileeninmd said...

Hello,

It is a terrible disease, thanks for sharing the information.
Have a great day!

Jenn Jilks said...

I've worked with so many clients with dementia. It's not easy.