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.”

Carey Mulligan, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and spoke about the disease at the UN last year, praised Dame Barbara’s family’s decision.

She 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.”

Everyone at CareDocs sends 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?

Alzheimer’s disease is a physical disease that affects the brain. During the course of the disease, 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 – when there is a shortage of them, the signals are not transmitted as effectively.

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.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, and 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. This means that gradually and over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, more symptoms develop, and also become more severe.

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 particularly depressed or anxious sufferers, 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 and their 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 a sufferer’s 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 is 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. Alzheimer sufferers 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 the sufferer’s symptoms and needs, and will inform the carer 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 Dementia sufferers. Any care plan is, however, only ever worth the paper it is written on if it is realistic, person centred, based on individual circumstances, shared with everyone with a responsibility for looking after the person named on the plan and, where feasible, shared with and understood by the person concerned.

This is why we believe using care home software can enable carers to create and deliver care plans easily and effectively.

Paramount to any successful care plan is one where the patient feels included and supported by the plan in place. Its aim should be to enable and support the person affected by Dementia to remain independent, self-reliant, fulfilled and in control for as long as they can be.

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.

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