Wednesday, 1 October 2014

How painting, puzzles or a trip to the park can slow down dementia

From todays news press

How painting, puzzles or a trip to the park can slow down dementia

KEEPING the brain active can help maintain relationships and improve mental function, says Dr Lee-Fay Low

dementia, dementia help, dementia puzzles, dementia brain, alzheimer's,
Games and puzzles are a great way to stimulate the brain and maintain levels of interaction [GETTY]
What do you do that gives your brain a workout? I find travelling, attending a course, workshop or conference, organising an event or performing on stage all work my brain. What these activities have in common is they require me to process and react to a lot of new information.
But dementia sufferers often find it difficult to cope with a lot of new information. Many would find it challenging, although not necessarily impossible, to travel, learn something new or go to a crowded event. This is why they are advised to keep to a routine and avoid potentially overstimulating experiences. However there is a downside to sticking to a routine. Routines tend to reduce opportunities to give their brain a workout which is why we should aspire to create a stimulating routine for people with dementia.
Two 45-minute sessions a week is the 'dose' that has been shown to be beneficial in improving cognitive function for people with dementia. Trying a range of activities will help exercise different aspects of thinking and memory. Here are some ideas for stimulating activities:

Start a discussion

This activity is more appropriate for people with mild to moderate dementia. Discussions should not just tap into the person's knowledge about the topic but also their opinions and ideas. Activities could include solving a problem by using a map to plan a long-distance trip, for example. Or you could ask them to arrange three historical events on chronological order. In this type of exercise you are asking them to use knowledge they already have in the activity. You could initiate discussions on topics such as the person's own life, historical events (you could use the Daily Express historic editions as inspiration), famous faces, current events, geography and places.

Do something artistic

People with dementia often surprise us with what they can create when given the opportunity. Perhaps it is because they are less inhibited due to changes in their frontal lobes or because they live in the moment much more than those with better memories. Artists say having a theme or focus stimulates their creativity. Give the person some materials (paper and pens, paints or modelling clay) and a theme to work on and see what they can come up with. Suggestions for themes could include: 'If you had three wishes what would they be', 'A day on the river', or 'Fruit'. You could get the person to observe something in real life and draw it such as a landscape or still life.

Play a game or do a puzzle

Choose games on the basis that they are fun and encourage interaction rather than because they are mentally challenging. Try and avoid games that rely heavily on short-term memory. Don't be competitive unless the person with dementia wants to be competitive. You can also turn games traditionally played competitively or alone into a collaborative exercise. For instance work together on a simple crossword or jigsaw puzzle. Many children's games are also fun for people with dementia. Here are some ideas for traditional games: snap, pick up sticks, Connect four, magnetic fishing games, dominoes, noughts and crosses, picture bingo or scrabble.

Experience nature

Do something that connects the person with the outside world. Being outdoors releases different chemicals in the brain than when indoors and can improve stress levels and increase creativity. Here are some ideas for outings:
• Go for a walk and look for birds or other animals
• Pat and interact with an animal
• Feed the ducks at the local park
• Look at the clouds and try to find animal shapes
• Watch moving water
• Go outside and look for objects of a certain colour
• Collect objects (rocks, leaves, sticks flowers or shells) and arrange them in some way in the house to remind you of the experience

Discuss dilemmas

This activity works better with people with some verbal communication ability as it relies on the person with dementia giving their opinion on any given topic. However you could also use pictures for someone who is unable to speak well. Topics could be:
• Is a cat or a dog a better pet?
• What kind of dog should I get as a pet?
• What is a good present for a child/60-year-old?
• Should I go on holiday to the beach or the mountains?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Clinical physiology tests for memory problems

There is something which bugs me about clinical physiology testing for memory problems, and no matter how I look at it, and no matter who I ask, no one can give a straight answer.

In Lewy body dementia like many other people I no longer use the mini mental test. I use a different type which is longer.

You get asked the usual questions about where you are and where you live etc, and then you are told a short story about someone, name address, town and county, which you are asked to remember.

After a while you are asked to repeat it all. If you get stuck you are given prompts, and no matter whether have forgotten the answer or not you have to pick one answer. 

This always gets me because I cannot remember things like this. 

If you are lucky enough to pick the right answer by sheer fluke you get a good mark, but what does this prove, if at the end of the day it is a guess and nothing else.

But what is the point of giving us prompts, if we do not remember the answer anyway. We do not get prompts in daily life, we have to struggle on trying to remember things without support.

In my job I had many exams which were sometimes multi choice, similar to this in many ways, but you either passed or failed. 

You had to know the correct answer and nothing else.

There are many times in life where you hear something, then in a few moments it's all gone, so can someone please tell me what thus achieves as many people with dementia have said that they feel the test is very upsetting and does not prove anything to them.

I go from day to day trying to get on with my life, with my memory problems, no one can prompt me because they simply do not know what I was trying to think through. 

There are times when I think of my short term memory problems, I do wonder if there is something else causing this or if it's a mixed type of dementia.

That is something for the consultant to decide when I go back again in the future. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Art work and dementia

Artwork is supposed to be very therapeutic for people with dementia, and I once went to a local branch where a local professional artist had three very large pictures on the wall, and left them for all of the clients to look at.

As they were all modern art and something many find difficult to work out, it took some time before people started to speak about what they could see in the pictures.

I confess that I was not impressed at first, then realised that these people could all see different things, from the same picture and after a while I started to see things which were not easy to see in the first place. I ended up enjoying the experience , although I am not a fan of modern art work.

Although many people who have dementia love to paint and draw, there are times when it becomes difficult to get the picture right, especially if it is down to look like a scene outside. I often give up in total frustration because it never looks the same but I guess this is all down to the spacial awareness side of things, where everything looks so very different in our eyes from day to day.

I used to love drawing when I was younger, and I think looking back this makes life so much harder as all this has gone.

It is difficult to get distances right and sometimes angles, yet as an engineer I would sketch or draw out things that were needed and then go back to the office knowing full well that I had an accurate drawing of what was needed, but now that the brain has changed all of this is all but in the past.

These days I struggle with the colours, getting the right shade or at least working out how to mix the correct shade of a certain colour, but I guess its all trial and error, but there are extra problems when it comes to how certain colours were mixed before.

I suppose I just have to make notes of how colours were made up and go from there.

The other method is a watercolour colour wheel, but then that depends on the colours in the paint box. Once the wrappers are off the new colour blocks, I have no idea what they are, so its going to be a complete challenge to get this off the ground, but I am determined to give it a try while I can

Some people think that other forms of paint are much better such as oils, or acrylic, but as I am new to this, It’s a case of trial and error  

Artwork can be relaxing when it works well, however I often look at something and see something which is not really there at all.

I sometimes find pastels easier to use although I would love to do water colours, as it looks nicer.

Project to create dementia-friendly shopping centre

Project to create dementia-friendly shopping centre

Andrew Oliver chairman of Houghton Traders Association
Andrew Oliver chairman of Houghton Traders Association

BUSINESSES have been getting behind plans to make Houghton the first dementia-friendly shopping area in the North East.

Houghton Traders’ Association is now working with the Alzheimer’s Society and firms in the area to help residents who have the illness to live better lives.

As part of the scheme, an event took place yesterday at Peppercorn Coffee Shop, in Newbottle Street, to give people advice on spotting the early signs of dementia.

Coun Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for health, said: “It is estimated that more than 3,400 people in Sunderland are living with dementia and this figure is set to rise to almost 4,000 by 2020.

“We’re committed to doing what we can to support those living with dementia and their families to live full and active lives.”

Houghton shops and organisations such as Peppercorn Coffee Shop, Just Sew Interiors, Gentoo and Houghton Computers have signed up the new agreement.

Andrew Oliver, chairman of Houghton Traders’ Association, said: “We want to encourage all local businesses to come forward and support them to become dementia friendly.”
“There are some very simple things that local businesses can do to improve the shopping experience for people with dementia, such as staff awareness training, or looking at areas like seating, signage and accessibility.”