Dementia – the early stages
In the early stages of dementia, people may not even be aware that they have it. But as time progresses, they no doubt will, even if they don’t admit it to anyone. There is a focus at the moment to early diagnosis of this, so that at this early stage there can be some interventions to hold off the later stages, as it costs a lot of money to the state in caring for someone with dementia and a loss to the state of the earning capacity of their relatives, who give up work to take care of them.
People with early stage dementia can still live reasonably full lives. They are likely to need support and I was proud to be at the ceremony when Plymouth became the UK’s first dementia friendly city. It has taken the inclusion of all sorts of organisations, including banks to have a process to deal with someone who cannot remember their PIN. The local bus company also has a process, whereby the customer can ask the driver not to pull away until they are sitting down and can let the driver know which stop they want to get off, so they can be reminded. It may be a small thing, but lots of these kinds of small things add up to enable the person with dementia to live as full a life as possible.
The local branch of Age UK and/or Alzheimer’s Society are likely to have a number of ways that someone can be supported to live in the community and of course, Social Services have a statutory duty in respect of someone in their area in need of support, so they can always be asked for support.
This early stage is the time when the person with dementia can still live a reasonably full life, but they can find the prospect of living with dementia daunting, isolating and frightening. It is however at this stage that any necessary preparations for a later deterioration should be put into place before the chance is lost. So this is the time to draft a Will and both kinds of LPAs if they have not already been done. This is also the time to discuss future treatment and wishes with their family, GP and any other healthcare professionals.
Dementia is tough on all, but at this stage there is a reasonable quality of life still to be had.