Living with Alzheimers at Future Directions

21st September 2017 |

Making all lives matter!

The month of September has been World Alzheimer's Month, with today marking its World Alzheimer's Day, Thursday 21st September 2017. World Alzheimer's Day is an opportunity for organisations such as Future Directions CIC to raise awareness, highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia and demonstrate how we can overcome them to help people live a life which matters with dementia.  Alzheimer's is a disease that causes dementia. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for approximately two-thirds of cases in older people. Alzheimer's often develops slowly over several years. It is not always obvious to begin with and symptoms can be subtle and overlap with other illnesses such as depression and anxiety. 

With this in mind when supporting individuals with mental health and learning difficulties, diagnosis and support given are paramount in being able to receive the appropriate care as early as possible.

At Future Directions we provide support to people with Alzheimers, including people with Learning Disabilities and Alzheimers. Life expectancy for people with learning disabilities has improved significantly in the past 30 years, thanks to advances in medical and social care. This means that more people with learning disabilities, such as Down's Syndrome, are living to an age where they are likely to develop dementia. We provide specific training regarding how to support someone who has a learning disability and dementia. In this training we look in depth at how dementia affects people with learning disabilities and how this is different to the general population (for example dementia generally affects people with learning disabilities 10 years sooner than the general population).

It's making our staff understand the necessity to see changes in behaviour of the people they support; to check on memory, to understand key emotional behaviour changes and liaising with occupational therapists, psychologists etc in order to get an early diagnosis and put in place appropriate care. It is paramount that steps are put into place sooner rather than later in order to manage the disease and not enhance the already debilitating symptoms an individual may be experiencing.

Future Directions raise awareness that difficult behaviour is not an inevitable consequence of dementia and identify ways in which the environment can be made enabling rather than disabling. These changes can be subtle and will differ for each individual but will have a positive impact on the person. For example, by putting labels on doors we enable people to make sense of the environment around them and to feel independent and free in their own home. Through using photographs of family, staff members and friends, we offer reassurance in order to stop anxieties and to provide familiarity. We also use photographs of when the person was younger so they can recognise themselves, allowing them to connect at times to memories which may have been forgotten and make them feel safe.  We have used contrasting colours within the home, for example by painting a door green it stands out next to a white wall, reminding the person what the door is for and where it is. This avoids confusion, leading to less anger shown and more independence, not being reliant on carers. By making simple changes to the environment we have made a big difference to the person's quality of life by ensuring the environment is familiar and makes sense to the person. At Future Directions, our person centred approach ensures that each individual in our care who is living with dementia does so without decreasing their worth in the world. The people we support have so much to offer and we want them to continue to live a life which matters.

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