The Department of Health and Social Care estimates that in England approximately 676,000 people are living with dementia (Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 (2015)), and the numbers are set to double over the next 30 years.
The term dementia covers a range of symptoms and behaviours which are linked to a degeneration of the brain tissue and death of brain cells through disease. The main forms are Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with lewy bodies and vascular dementia. There are many other forms of dementia, however, and some other conditions and diseases may also lead to dementia, for example, Huntingdon’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease) is less well known but can affect people in their 40s and 50s.
Dementia is commonly understood to affect memory, but can also impair behaviour and emotional stability, affect language and understanding, and have a physical impact on other senses such as sight and taste. Some people can become aggressive or overly affectionate, or they can withdraw from friends and family, and regress into the past – perceiving carers or family members as strangers (because they don’t remember meeting them) or mistaking them for other people such as deceased parents or spouses.
Although the condition is currently irreversible, many people are able to stay at home and undertake everyday tasks for some time after diagnosis. Indeed, for some, attempting to move people from their home environment may increase anxiety. Home Improvement Agencies are well placed to help people stay at home for as long as possible, and adaptations to the home can reduce risk and anxiety for the person affected and their carers and families.
Foundations has produced a useful list of possible adaptations for people with dementia.
The Alzheimer's Society has published a booklet that describes ways to create or adapt the home environment so that it remains a safe and familiar place. Download Making your home dementia friendly. They have also produced a fact sheet that looks at various pieces of equipment and parts of the home that can be adapted for people with dementia.
Age UK Scotland have produced a guide for carers of people living with early stage dementia, on how to create a dementia-friendly home.
Other services can also be helpful in keeping people well at home such as the innovative Care and Repair Leeds Reminiscence Activity Library, which provides materials to stimulate memory and communication and helps with emotional health, but also allows a home health check to be undertaken to identify other needs in the home.
Dementia Dwelling Grant
A number of local authorities have introduced new grants into their Housing Assistance Policy to support people with a diagnosis of dementia. A great example is the Dementia Dwelling Grant which was introduced across Worcestershire and externally assessed by the University of Worcester.
Dementia does still have a stigma attached to it, although that is now changing. However, special care should be taken when dealing with people with dementia, and Dementia Friends training can help Caseworkers, Technical Officers and contractors who come into contact with people with dementia understand some of the challenges that they may face.
Enabling People with Dementia to Remain at Home: A Housing Perspective
Published to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Month, this report has been produced on behalf of the Dementia and Housing Working Group and Housing LIN, and supported by Homeless Link, Foundations and the Life Story Network.
The full report and the accompanying executive summary set out the key role housing providers, and in particular social housing providers, can play in supporting people living with dementia to stay independent in the home of their choice for as long as possible. Its findings are divided into ones directly relevant to those working in the housing sector and those that provide a platform for wider application; for example, to become more dementia-friendly.