Dame Barbara Windsor Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
Barbara Windsor’s husband, Scott Mitchell, made the brave announcement in May 2018 to share that his wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in April 2014. In an interview with The Sun, Mr Mitchell said: “Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it’s becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.
“I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is.”
Actress, Carey Mulligan, who has been an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society since 2012, spoke about the disease at the UN in 2017. She praised Dame Barbara’s family’s decision and stated, “I think it’s really wonderful and brave for the family and Dame Barbara Windsor to come out publicly and speak about Alzheimer’s.
“It’s so important as a society that we become more aware of dementia and we become more accepting as a community… For so many years there’s been such a misunderstanding about what it is – that it’s not a natural part of ageing, that it is a disease of the brain.”
We at CareDocs send our best wishes to Dame Barbara and her family.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a disease in itself but a word that describes a group of symptoms associated with difficulties in thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, memory loss, mental sharpness, understanding and movement. There may also be changes in mood or behaviour. Initially, changes may be quite small, however, the symptoms may become significant enough to have severe consequences upon daily life.
Symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Although Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of ageing, the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the vast majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. It’s a physical disease that affects the brain and worsens over time. Proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.
People with Alzheimer’s also have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain. These chemical messengers help to transmit signals around the brain, and when there is a shortage of them, the signals are not transmitted as effectively.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease. This means gradually over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, more symptoms develop, and also become more severe. Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease can help boost the levels of chemical messengers in the brain which can help with some of the symptoms.
Drug Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease
There are drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that can temporarily alleviate certain symptoms or slow down their progression in some people.
A person in the mild or moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease or mixed dementia will often be prescribed a drug such as donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) or galantamine (Reminyl). The drug may help with memory problems, improve concentration and motivation, as well as help with aspects of daily life, such as cooking, shopping or hobbies.
A person in the moderate or severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease or mixed dementia may be offered memantine (Ebixa). This can help with mental abilities, daily activities, and it can ease distressing or challenging behaviours, such as agitation and delusions.
For people who are depressed or anxious, talking therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy) or drug treatments (such as antidepressants) may also be tried. Counselling may help the person adjust to the diagnosis.
Challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s presents challenges of varying degrees not just for the sufferer but also for loved ones. Seeing the decline of a close family member or friend can be hugely distressing and can leave people with feelings of helplessness, loss and grief.
There is no set pattern as to how Alzheimer’s will unfold and present itself in each individual. Early symptoms generally impact on cognitive functioning and can manifest themselves as memory loss, reduced concentration and deteriorating organisational and planning skills. It can also affect the ability to follow conversations, formulate a sentence, and cause difficulties in remembering how to carry out daily tasks, such as getting dressed or making a cup of tea. Other symptoms include mood swings, general loss of confidence and struggling to co cope with hearing aids or eye glasses.
Whilst none of the above in themselves necessarily indicate a need for additional help in the home, this may change as the Alzheimer’s progresses. Voluntary organisations in the community such as Dementia Care, the Alzheimer’s Society and Carers UK can step in when this becomes the case, as can NHS Social Services. Simple adaptations in the home can prolong independent living ability, and advice regarding financial help can be given if necessary.
What’s it Like Living with Alzheimer’s in a Care Home?
Whilst two thirds of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease continue to live in the community, individual circumstances or how the condition progresses may require a move to a care home. It’s here that the individual can receive specialist 24-hour care. Making that decision can be extremely hard, but it can reap benefits both for the person affected by dementia and the carer.
Carers may feel the quality of care provided in the Care Home is better than what could have been provided at home. Individuals with Alzheimer’s may benefit from the wealth of activities offered from specially trained staff. They will be exposed to varying social situations each day and may build new relationships and friendships.
Care homes will be able to carry out an individual assessment of a person’s symptoms and needs, and will inform them what they can offer. By leveraging tools such as care home software, the specific requirements of these patients can be recorded and shared to help deliver the best care possible. This approach helps empower those with dementia by ensuring they receive a care plan that is tailored to their needs.
Care Plan Ideas for Patients with Dementia
There are many different types and formats of care plans for people living with dementia. An effective care plan is one that’s realistic, person-centred, based on individual circumstances with input from all sides, shared with everyone who has a responsibility for looking after the person or loved ones who wish to understand the care.
Our care home software enable carers to create and deliver unique care plans easily and effectively. Once the care plan has been approved, it’s then up to the care provider to support their residents and help them remain independent, self-reliant, fulfilled and in control for as long as they can be. We have many other recording and management features that help you achieve this.
If you would like more information or any advice on any of the areas addressed above, please do not hesitate to contact us. We offer a tailored solution for care homes to help them plan, manage and deliver effective care.