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Dementia

Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes, and there’s currently no cure. Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service is now a member of the Dementia Action Alliance.

Did you know?

  • It’s predicted that, by 2021, a million of us will have dementia. Two million by 2051.
  • Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes, and there’s currently no cure.
  • Dementia doesn’t care how old you are. It’s caused by diseases of the brain so it’s not an inevitable part of ageing. In fact, more than 40,000 people with dementia in the UK are under 65.
  • Of the top ten causes of death, dementia is the only one we can’t prevent, cure or even slow down, but funding of dementia research is still far too low.
  • Dementia is caused by complex brain diseases and so – just like HIV and cancer – research will find ways to beat it.
  • It’s a daily struggle for people with dementia and their families to get the help and care they need. The emotional, physical and financial burden of dementia is enormous.
  • Dementia costs the UK £26.3 billion a year – an average of £32,250 per person. This is a huge financial burden on those living with dementia, and for families who are spending all they have on their loved ones’ care.
  • Because public understanding is so poor, people with dementia often feel – and are – misunderstood, marginalised and isolated. And that means that they’re less likely to be able to live independently in their own communities. 

Why should it matter to me?

  • It is a significant health issue that will affect us all either directly or indirectly
  • An estimated 22 million people in the UK have a family member or friend who has dementia which affects Local Authorities as an employer
  • 82% of the public believe that people with dementia and those that care for them need more help and support
  • When asked which local authority services they would LEAST like to see cut 36% of the public say social care for older people

What is National Dementia Action Alliance (NDAA)

The NDAA is the only national alliance for dementia care and research organisations across England to connect, share best practice and take action on dementia.

Everything they do is in partnership and informed by people living with dementia, and their carers.

Find your local alliance

What Benefit does it give to the organisation?

If your organisation doesn't work directly in the field of dementia being part of the local alliance will:

  • Enable to find out more about dementia and help raise awareness within your organisation
  • Save you money, the sharing of information and best practice and learning from others can save your organisation money
  • Help Derbyshire work towards becoming a dementia friendly community
  • Network with others across Derbyshire
  • Improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers

Across the East Midlands there are a range of organisations signed up and involved in their local alliance including Police, Fire & Rescue Services, local Care providers, Utility companies, voluntary groups, community groups, training providers, transport companies and many more.

Achievements so far in the East Midlands

  • To date there are 5 local alliances and a regional board
  • There are over 50 organisations signed up across the East Midlands
  • Local alliances have been working on local projects in their communities working towards dementia friendly communities
  • The 'dementia friends' project is working with local alliances to train 'Dementia Friend Champions'
  • Local alliances have received grants and donations from local members to be able to do specific pieces of work in their local communities
  • Organisations have received in kind support from other members by way of training, sharing of information and best practice

What next?

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service are one of the first organisations in Derbyshire to become a member of the DAA and have submitted an action plan.

View the action plan

The next step for Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service is to fully embed the ethos of the DAA by ensuring that we achieve our actions as set out in the Action Plan. We will over the next year continue to work with partners and local organisations to make Derbyshire a dementia friendly community thus allowing individuals to live safely and independently in their homes.

How can I get involved?

People with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives and feel included in their local community. Dementia Friends is giving people an understanding of dementia and the small things they can do that can make a difference to people living with dementia - from helping someone find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia.

We want to create a network of a million Dementia Friends across England by 2015. You can get involved in two ways: by becoming a Dementia Friends Champion or becoming a Dementia Friend.

If this is something that you would like to get involved with please visit Dementia Friends which will provide you with further information.

Videos by people with dementia

The Alzheimers Society on YouTube

Safety and Dementia

When considering the needs of someone with dementia, it is important to find the right balance between independence and the need for protection. The person with dementia should be involved in decision making and their consent sought and given, where possible. Where this is not possible, it is vital that those making the decision have the person's best interests at heart. There is no such thing as a completely risk-free environment for any of us, and when someone is living with dementia it may be that some minor accidents are inevitable. This factsheet presents some sensible precautions that those close to someone with dementia can take to help minimise risk.

Dementia leads to changes in a person's capabilities and behaviour, and those around them need to be alert to these changes and adapt as necessary. Of course, each person with dementia is different, and every home situation varies. However, accidents involving people with dementia are more likely to happen, for the following reasons:

  • Sense of balance and speed of reaction tend to decline as people get older.
  • Physical difficulties and mobility problems make it harder to carry out some activities.
  • Dementia affects memory and judgement. It also affects insight, so a person with dementia may not be aware that doing something might be dangerous to themselves or to other people.
  • Those caring for someone with dementia are often tired, and feel under pressure.
  • Accidents can be more likely to happen when people are stressed or confused.

Tips: reducing stress

  • It is inevitable that family members and carers will feel tired and irritable from time to time. The person with dementia may pick up on a person's mood from their body language, even if they do not say anything. If you find this happening to you, breathe deeply and slow down. Better still, take a few minutes' break.
  • Caring for someone with dementia is not easy and is not something that you have to do alone. Don't let yourself become overwhelmed, ask for help when you need it. There is support available, including the Alzheimer's Society Helpline (see bottom of the page for more details). Keeping yourself healthy and well will help you in the job of caring and the person with dementia will feel the benefit.

Avoiding accidents

There are a number of ways to make a home safer. Some of these are simple, practical steps. However, an occupational therapist (OT) can advise you on the full range of ways to make your home safer, and on equipment to support the person with dementia. You can contact an OT through your GP or through social services.

Lighting

  • Make sure that the lighting in your home is bright enough so that everyone can see clearly what they are doing, but avoid lighting which shines directly into people's eyes.
  • If the person with dementia is likely to get up at night, leave a light on in the hall when you go to bed and a safe night light in the bedroom.
  • Make sure there is a light on in the bathroom or toilet so the person can find their way at night.

Equipment and adaptations

Handrails in the hall and on the stairs, grab rails in the bathroom and toilet, and a toilet seat riser will help if a person is unsteady on their feet. Similarly, equipment such as bath lifts, bath seats and other special adaptations can be arranged and fitted to make bathing safer. Seek advice from an OT as equipment should be considered with caution. A person with dementia may find it hard to learn to use new pieces of equipment and adaptations and this could increase the risk. An OT will carry out a thorough assessment to ensure tailored strategies for the person are in place to maximise safety.

View the Alzheimers Fact Sheet

Falls

Some older people are unsteady on their feet and are more likely to fall. This can be dangerous. The risk of a fall can be minimised by paying attention to rugs, loose carpets (especially on the stairs) and slippery floors. Remove trailing flexes, unsteady furniture and clutter or objects lying on the floor.

If the person has a fall that seems serious, don't try to move them or give them anything to eat or drink. If they have broken a bone they may need an anaesthetic later. Keep them warm and call for an ambulance.

Dangerous substances

Always store medicines somewhere safe. If the person is unable to administer their own medication safely, arrangements must be made for someone else to do this. Containers that allow you to measure out medicines for the whole week are available from a pharmacist. Ask your GP for advice if difficulties continue.

Lock away any poisonous substances, such as paint stripper, bleach or disinfectant, as a person with dementia may not recognise what they are. If you think that the person may have swallowed something poisonous, phone for an ambulance or take them immediately to the nearest accident and emergency department. Take the container and any remains of the substance with you so that the doctor will know what treatment to give.

The kitchen

If the person no longer seems to recognise danger, remove any potentially dangerous implements, such as sharp knives, but place items in everyday use within easy reach.

If necessary, consider fitting an isolation valve to a gas cooker, so that the cooker cannot be turned on and left on if the person is at home alone − your gas supplier can advise you about this. Provide an electric kettle that switches itself off automatically. Flood detectors are also useful in case taps are left on.

View the Alzheimers Fact Sheet

Accidents do happen. If the person scalds or burns themselves, pour cold water over the affected area for least ten minutes to reduce the heat and lessen the pain. Burnt skin can swell so remove anything tight, such as a watch or a ring. Do not apply ointment or butter. Cover the area with a clean, non-fluffy cloth or wrap in cling film if available. Contact the GP and describe the injury, or take the person to the nearest accident and emergency department. Do not forget to tell the doctor or hospital staff about the person's dementia and any other information that may aid communication.

Heating

Fires or heaters can be a danger for someone whose memory and judgement of danger are impaired.

  • Always fit a fixed fire guard.
  • Never dry clothes over a fire or a heater.
  • Never take a portable heater into a bathroom.
  • Make sure that all gas and electric appliances are serviced regularly.
  • Consider installing an isolation valve which can be fitted to a gas fire in the same way as a gas cooker.
  • Consider installing central heating or an electric fire that can be regulated with a time switch.

Risk of fire

Make sure that gas detectors and smoke alarms are fitted. Even if the person with dementia is living alone and is unable to respond to the alarm, it is possible that someone will pass the house and be able to take appropriate action. Alarms can also be set up to activate external warning devices that alert others to the situation.

A person with dementia who smokes runs the risk of starting a fire because they may forget that they have lit a cigarette and could leave it burning. If you live with a smoker who has dementia, it may be safest for you both if you keep the cigarettes, or at least the matches. There have been recorded instances where a person with dementia no longer remembers that they smoke if their access to cigarettes is gradually reduced over a time. This is one of the difficult areas where the person's carer or family have to balance the risks against the person's autonomy and quality of life.

Electric blankets can be dangerous for people with impaired memory, as overheating can cause a fire. If you use one, check that it has safety features, such as automatically switching off at a certain temperature. People who are incontinent should not use electric blankets.

Practical steps

Asking the neighbours

If a person with dementia lives on their own, or the person who lives with them is out of the house for long periods, a friendly neighbour may be prepared to keep an eye out for signs that something is wrong. You may be able to leave a spare set of keys with them and a phone number where you can be contacted if needed.

Gaining admission

If the person lives alone, it is important to sort out a way in which others can gain entry to the house. For this reason, bolts on the front door may not be a good idea.

It is important to think through such a situation beforehand, so that if there is a crisis you can deal with it without the additional worry of wondering how you are going to get in. Key safes are a secure way of providing access. Only agreed friends, family members or carers would have the combination, and this can be regularly changed.

Useful details

It is a good idea to keep a list of useful phone numbers in a strategic location or programme them into your phone. These might include the numbers for:

  • gas, water and electricity (especially in an emergency)
  • GP and hospital
  • social worker and home care agency, if involved
  • local police
  • local electrician, plumber, builder or locksmith
  • local taxi
  • carers, friends or family members
  • local Alzheimer's Society

It will also help if you list information such as:

  • Practical steps on who to contact and how to deal with an emergency. For example, how to use an alert system.
  • Advice on strategies that work for the person with dementia, e.g. to aid communication or manage distress.
  • Where to find the gas and electricity meters, the fuse box and stop cock.
  • Where to find the point to turn off the mains gas and water supply.

Tell anyone who might need this information where to find the list.

Herbert Protocol

The Herbert Protocol is a national scheme introduced by Derbyshire police, and is supported by the Derbyshire Safeguarding Adults Board.

It encourages carers to compile useful information which could be used if an adult who has care and support needs goes missing. Carers, family members and friends or professionals can complete the form in advance.

The form records all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located and a photograph, which will help locate the person if they ever go missing.

If your family member or friend goes missing, the form can be easily sent or handed to the police to reduce the time taken in gathering this information.

It is not intended to replace existing safeguarding measures.

For details of Dementia Services in your area please contact the following organisations:-

Derby City - Making Space

Derbyshire County - Alzheimer's Society