RELEASED: 12:40 03. November 2018
The current and projected increase in the number of people suffering from dementia is frightening, but the understanding of the disease and the care and support of those affected have progressed rapidly.
It has been described as a ticking time bomb and scourge of modern times. While 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia today, in 2050 there are two million.
The disease describes a number of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulty in thinking, problem solving or speech. The changes are often small, but for someone with dementia they have become so heavy that they affect their daily lives and may cause changes in mood or behavior.
Alzheimer's Research UK is alarmingly predicting that 24% of men and 35% of women born in 2015 will develop dementia during their lifetime.
While the search for remedies for Alzheimer's disease and other diseases that cause dementia has been painfully slow so far, there has been surprisingly rapid progress in understanding the condition and improving dementia care.
Helen Gosling, Operations Manager at Suffolk, Kingsley Healthcare, has described the shift in dementia and general geriatric care since she started out as a nursing home 27 years ago as "quite dramatic."
She said, "In the past, people with dementia were simply considered confused.
"We used to take care of their physical needs but did not really care about their past to understand their behavior.
"They were still well cared for, but only recently has people's emotional wellbeing been seen as a priority for their physical health."
Living with dementia
The challenge of finding the best way to help people with dementia has led to a cultural change at Kingsley over the last decade through the development of the innovative dementia care program WINGS.
Helen said the transformation was evident as soon as you walked through the door of a dementia home like Allonsfield House in Campsea Ashe, near Woodbridge.
Activities for people with dementia
You may see Trevor Bennett walking around with the maintenance man, holding a clipboard in his hand and inspecting the construction work while other residents may be busy with tasks such as dusting or peeling vegetables.
"It's not a picture that fits the vision of a 'rest home,' but modern nursing homes are very different from those outdated facilities where residents have done little else but sit in a row," said Helen.
Many residents of the Allonsfield House, a sprawling 17th-century farmhouse, live with dementia.
However, Helen said that although her memory of recent years may fade, her behavior and emotions are still closely linked to her life story. For this reason, emotional support and care would have to be tailored to the individual.
She said, "It's about people knowing people's likes and dislikes and their family history.
"For a woman who has always been proud of her home, satisfaction could come from anything but helping with cleaning or tidying the kitchen.
"One of our former residents of Allonsfield House, Jeff, had been a journalist and obviously had a passion for his job.
"He was frustrated because he could not work anymore, so we provided him with a desk, papers, and pens. It made him much happier, though he was still angry when he said he had missed his deadlines. "
With today's focus on personal care, the families of the residents played a key role in putting together the puzzle of an individual's past.
"It brought families closer to us. They come in now and treat it more like their home, "she said.
The sight of Allonsfield House manager Alex Powell's Pet Terrier Squidgy walking among the residents could not connect many people to a nursing home.
However, Ms. Gosling said, "Pets are an important part of many people's lives, and there is no reason why they should not continue if they move to a nursing home.
"Animals can bring many happy memories, and home therapy can have a tremendous positive impact on people with dementia."
At the heart of the new WINGS philosophy was the truth that you do not have to stop what you love when you take care of yourself.
"We have moved away from clinical care homes. This is their home in a family-friendly environment, "she said.