People are being diagnosed with dementia up to six years later than previous generations, a report by the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases finds. Typically, around two in 100 people are diagnosed with dementia, with the average age of diagnosis rising from 80 to 86 years old in recent years.
Advances in the prevention and treatment of strokes, which can trigger the onset of neurodegenerative illnesses, may have helped reduce the number of people who go on to develop dementia by over 50%.
However, this development doesn’t fully explain the shift in average age of diagnosis. Scientists at the University of Texas are continuing to investigate the impact of other factors, such as reduced lead pollution, increased nutritional awareness and related vaccinations.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
Despite the later onset of the illness, the symptoms for dementia sufferers are consistently devastating.
The memory loss it causes can impact all aspects of a person’s life. As the illness progresses, individuals may need help with day-to-day activities, including washing and bathing. They may forget to wash or lack the patience for a regular routine.
Bathing is a private and intimate moment and those who require care may have difficulty adjusting to the need for help. However, regularly washing is important to prevent infections and illnesses caused by lack of hygiene.
How can sufferers maintain a sense of routine?
In addition to the emotional impact caused by dementia, there are physical factors to consider. Many dementia patients experience a heightened sensitivity to temperature and water pressure, making the desire to wash diminish even further. Fear can also prevent sufferers from going about everyday tasks; what was once familiar can seem daunting, challenging and even threatening.
In these instances, comfort is the key to keeping certain routines going.
The recommended guidelines suggest that those suffering from dementia should have a shower, bath or sponge-bath at least twice a week. However, it may be more productive to wash different parts of the body on different days.
It’s possible to buy specially designed baths and showers that have been created to offer the best in style while delivering superb comfort and safety. At Premier Bathrooms, we offer a range of walk-in baths and walk-in showers that can help to prevent accidents and preserve a person’s sense of independence at a time when they may be feeling especially vulnerable and out of their comfort zone.
The Alzheimer’s Society recommends that carers encourage dementia patients to make choices, such as whether they’d prefer a bath or shower, or one type of toiletry or another, while asking them to try and remember which stage of the process comes next.
Continual praise and support are important, and, should things not go according to plan, it’s important not to dwell on negative incidents.
What does the future look like?
With the age of diagnosis appearing to have shifted by a few years, the likelihood is that those diagnosed with dementia will be increasingly elderly.
In addition to using adapted bathrooms, should they be living at home with the support of a carer, it’s important that their homes are safe, secure and comforting. From basic needs, such as eating and drinking, to dressing and dental hygiene, the tasks most of us sail through without a thought can present significant obstacles for those suffering the effects of neurodegenerative conditions.
There is some light on the horizon. Scientists at University College London suggest that a cure for dementia could be just a decade away. Until then, carers and relatives looking after dementia sufferers can only strive to make their remaining years as comfortable as possible.