If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia, this guide aims to answer some of the key questions you may have.

 

Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods we are committed to providing delicious, expertly prepared meals, alongside a dedicated and friendly service. We are also passionate about spreading good information about health and well-being. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia, then this guide should help you to understand more about the condition and how it can affect daily living.

What is Dementia?

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving, or language. These changes are often minimal to start with, but over time can become severe enough to affect daily life. According to Age UK, 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 has dementia, equating to roughly 800,000 people. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or a series of strokes. The specific symptoms that someone with dementia may experience will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.

What are the Symptoms of Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms gradually get worse over time. Cases of dementia often differ, with each individual experiencing dementia in their own way. A person with dementia will have cognitive symptoms featuring the following:

Day-to-day memory problems - this often manifests as difficulty recalling events that happened recently

Planning or organising – for example, difficulties making fairly straight-forward decisions, solving problems or carrying out a tasks (e.g. cooking a meal)

Language – this could be difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something

Visuospatial skills - problems judging distances and seeing objects in three dimensions

Orientation - losing track of the date or time, or becoming confused about where they are

It is very important to note that in the later stages of dementia, there will often be some degree of dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and the patient may be required to follow a texture modified diet as guided by a speech and language therapist to reduce the risk of choking.

As well as these cognitive symptoms, a person with dementia will often have changes in their mood and behaviour. For example, they may become frustrated or irritable, withdrawn, anxious, easily upset or unusually sad. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms gradually get worse over time. How quickly dementia progresses varies greatly from person to person. As dementia progresses, the person may develop behaviours that seem unusual or out of character. These behaviours may include repetitive questioning, pacing, restlessness or agitation. They can be distressing or challenging for the person and their carer.

A person with dementia, especially in the later stages, may have physical symptoms such as muscle weakness or weight loss. It is important to note that many people with dementia maintain their independence and live well for years after their diagnosis. Information, advice and support are available for the person and their carer to help them live well with dementia from various sources such as the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK and the NHS.

What causes Dementia?

There are many diseases that result in dementia. The most common types of dementia are outlined below:

Alzheimer's disease - This is the most common cause of dementia.

Vascular dementia - If the oxygen supply to the brain is reduced because of narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, brain cells can become damaged, leading to vascular dementia. The symptoms can occur either suddenly following one large stroke, or over time through a series of small strokes.

Mixed dementia - This is when someone has more than one type of dementia, and a mixture of symptoms. It is common for someone to have Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia together.

Dementia with Lewy bodies - This type of dementia involves tiny abnormal structures (Lewy bodies) developing inside brain cells. They disrupt the brain's chemistry and lead to the death of brain cells. Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson's disease and often has some of the same symptoms, including difficulty with movement.

Frontotemporal dementia – The nerve cells of the front and side parts of the brain are damaged, causing them to die. At first, changes in personality and behaviour may be the most obvious signs. Depending on where the damage is, the person may have difficulties with fluent speech or may forget the meaning of words or objects.

Eating and Drinking Well with Dementia

Many challenges can arise for those with dementia when it comes to eating and drinking well. As well as physical barriers to eating, there are also many practical difficulties to consider. The below table is a simple guide to help overcome some of these challenges*:

 

Challenge

 

 

Solution

Difficulty/inability to prepare meals or to get to the supermarket

Consider using a meal delivery service such as Wiltshire Farm Foods

 

Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)

 

Follow a texture modified diet as set out by your speech and language therapist (also available via Wiltshire Farm Foods)

 

Changes in food preference

Offer foods with strong flavours and vibrant colours

 

Development of a sweet tooth

Provide puddings before main dishes to stimulate appetite and maximise nutritional intake

 

Difficulty using cutlery

Offer finger foods such as mini sausage rolls, sandwiches, sausages or sliced fruit and vegetables. Specialist cutlery can also be provided by an Occupational Therapist.

 

Not recognising food or loss of desire to eat

Help guide food to the mouth and describe the food to them.

 

*Wiltshire Farm Foods are providing general information regarding dementia and are not recommending any direct healthcare practice. The information in this article should not take priority over the advice of any registered Healthcare Professional, and their advice should always be followed regarding any health issues or procedures.

Request a Brochure

Request a brochure