When is the right time to give up driving?

Although driving may feel like an automatic activity to experienced motorists, it actually requires complex interactions between eyes, brain and muscles, along with rapid reaction responses to deal with unexpected circumstances.

Dementia will eventually erode these skills and at some point the difficult decision will have to be made to give up driving. Exactly when this will be depends very much on the individual. 

Some people lose their confidence behind the wheel early on and decide, for themselves, to make alternative transport arrangements soon after their diagnosis. Others are able to carry on driving safely for several years. 

Safety of course has to be the key factor in the decision.

Here families and friends have a valuable role to play as too often people with dementia under-estimate the effect their symptoms are having on their ability to drive. 

However hard it may be to accept, the following are all warning signs that its time to quit:

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving
  • Hitting curbs
  • Using poor lane control
  • Making errors at junctions
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Returning from a routine drive later than usual
  • Forgetting the destination you are driving to during the trip

When the time comes, support, patience and understanding from carers and family members will be essential to help make the necessary adjustments to lifestyle and potential loss of independence.

​Discussions on the subject are rarely easy, and sadly,its a common reaction for the person affected to become angry and resentful when the subject is raised. With this in mind, the Alzheimer's Association in the USA have produced a few YouTube video clips which, with any luck, will give you a few ideas on how to get the ball rolling.

Your legal queries answered….

A diagnosis of dementia inevitably raises questions about your future care needs, and how these can best be met. The legal systems that must be negotiated can feel like a real obstacle course, so the need for clear straightforward information is obvious though, sadly, not always easy to find.

Having provided advice to many families trying to work through this difficult process, Laker Legal Solicitors decided to create a no-nonsense guide which provides an easy to understand breakdown of the legal and financial implications surrounding the choices people with dementia and their families may need to make as their dementia progresses over time. We're pleased to be able to share their guide with you here. 


‘Singing for the brain’ in Gloucestershire

​Music has the ability to capture emotion and stimulate the brain like few other mediums. And because the part of the brain that governs our response to music is one of the last to be affected by dementia, the power of music and song to help those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be profound. 

Singing for the brain is an initiative run by the Alzheimer's Society based on the principles of music therapy. The aim is to bring people with dementia and their carers together to sing in a fun, friendly and stimulating environment where they can express themselves and socialise with others in a supportive group.

In the video clip below, Chreanne Montgomery-Smith,one of the founders of Singing for the Brain, explains more about how the sessions are run, while several participants talk about the enjoyment and feeling of wellbeing they experience from attending the sessions.

If you fancy giving it a go, there are 2  local Singing for the brain groups in the Stroud area.
Details are below, but for further information contact Jane Fraser-Hook at Alzheimer's Society - Gloucestershire Office , weekdays 01452-525222 

Stonehouse Singing for the Brain
St Josephs Church Hall, Oldends Lane, Stonehouse GL10 2DG
Normally every 1st and 3rd Tuesday in the month from  2pm to 3:30pm

Gloucester Singing for the Brain 
Hucclecote Rugby Football Club, Churchdown Lane, Hucclecote, Gloucester GL3 3QH
Normally every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month from 10:30am to 12:30pm

St Josephs Church Hall, Oldends Lane, Stonehouse GL10 2DG

Finally, a dementia support guide worth buying…

Practical advice for families, professionals, and people living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease
by Professor June Andrews

Professor June Andrews has a well earned reputation for her work in the fields of social care and dementia. As Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) based at the University of Stirling, she has done much to raise awareness and improve understanding of the difficulties faced by those dealing with dementia.

In 'Dementia- The one stop guide' her aim is to share the knowledge she has gained over the years by providing "practical and sensible advice" about "how to cope with the dementia journey the best way you can".

The book is well laid-out, easy to read, and is truly informative. It is jam packed with practical advice that you can put to immediate use, and the inclusion of many real-life examples make the situations described easy to relate to and understand.

As its name suggests, the book deals with the full range of issues associated with dementia. Don't be put off by this, thinking that a "one-stop" approach will just skim over important points. The book provides solid, worthwhile facts and information, without getting you bogged down in so much detail you don't know where to start.

There are 15 chapters in all, each covering a separate concern. The book can be read as a narrative cover to cover, or can be successfully dipped in and out of for the sections most pertinent to your specific needs at any one time. Chapters include advice on:

  • Getting a diagnosis
  • What are friends for?
  • How to keep dementia at bay
  • Disturbing behaviours
  • What you should expect from the Social care system
  • The dangers of a hospital admission and how to avoid them
  • Some important legal issues​

Dementia- the one stop guide is aimed at anyone with an interest in dementia and makes no distinction between family members, professionals and those living with the disease themselves. There is no jargon or unhelpful theory. The information is practical, user friendly and, importantly, provides advice that can be put to immediate effect.

We really can't recommend this book enough. Unlike so many other guides that we have quickly recycled to the charity shop, this one will remain firmly at the front of the bookshelf for future reference.

​The cover price is £9.99 and is available from the online bookshop at DSDC- (which also stocks other helpful dementia publications and downloads so is definitely worth a look), or from Amazon priced £6.99.
In our opinion it's worth every penny!

Dementia Awareness Week 17-24 May

Image- #do something new

Did you know it’s Dementia Awareness Week
on 17- 24th May?

The event is organised each year by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise the public profile of those affected by  dementia and of course do plenty of much needed fund-raising.

The theme this year is #Do Something New!

At Alzheimer’s Society, we believe that life doesn’t end when dementia begins, and we do everything we can to help people living with dementia hold onto their lives and the things they love for longer.


We also believe it’s possible to do new things and have new experiences, too. And that’s what this year’s Dementia Awareness Week is all about.”

So they are setting us all a challenge…
Can you ‘Do Something New’?

It could be something as simple as trying a new food you’ve never eaten before, to fulfilling a lifelong ambition like climbing a mountain. If you need a few ideas, click here for the society’s list of suggestions but remember, the sky’s the limit!

And do take a look at the website where they share the #Do Something New stories of 3 of their supporters who haven’t let dementia get in the way of following their dreams and finding fulfilment. Ken, Margaret and Ian’s stories are truly inspirational so do take a peep!

Feeling inspired? Great! Be sure to have fun…and don’t be afraid to share ‘your something new’ on social media using the hashtags #DoSomethingNew and #DAW2015. You might just inspire a few others!

Click here for further details of Dementia Awareness Week 2015

Is your bathroom a potential dementia disaster zone?

Fear of flooding, increased risk of falls, and the potential for confusion caused by mirrors and reflective surfaces, can all combine to make your bathroom a potential time-bomb.

The good news is, that with some expert advice and careful planning, much can be done to alleviate these potential problems and provide effective solutions for you and your loved ones…all of which will help you remain comfortable in your own home for longer.

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to future-proof your bathroom.

The key to success is to act now. Planning possible adaptations before you actually need them, will give you the best opportunity to seek professional advice, get the work done and then adjust easily to any changes.

Grab rails provide something solid to support yourself with

Grab rails provide something solid to support yourself with

Your first port of call should undoubtedly be to seek the advice of an Occupational therapist. They are the experts. They will be able to do a home visit and offer personalised advice about you and your home. They may well identify hazards you haven’t even thought of, and can come up with innovative solutions that could help prevent no end of problems later on.

Don’t delay.

A plastic shower seat will allow you to sit down while you wash

A plastic shower seat will allow you to sit down while you wash

The following bathroom fixes used in many specialist dementia care homes will help boost your bathroom’s usability right now…so why not incorporate some of these ideas…

Banish flooding worries with a Magiplug

“Magiplug” is an ingenious device that you can use to replace the existing plug in your bath and/or washbasin. It contains a pressure sensor that releases water safely down the plughole if the taps are not switched off and the water level gets too deep, thus eliminating fears of flooding. They are inexpensive, easy to fit to your existing bath and/or basin, and can provide real peace of mind. They are easily available from a number of dementia care suppliers, Amazon, or direct from the manufacturer.

Watch this YouTube clip to see how they work:


With safety in mind, it’s also well worth considering a centrally controlled thermostat to control water temperature, and avoid the possibility of scalding accidents.

An adjustable height toilet seat fitted over your exisitng toilet reduces the risk of falls

An adjustable height toilet seat fitted over your exisitng toilet reduces the risk of falls

The addition of grab rails and a toilet seat riser can help improve your sense of security and confidence when using the bathroom and ultimately reduce the risk of falls. There are many products on the market, so to find the right ones for you, we suggest looking at the Disability Living Foundation’s website www.asksara.dlf.org.uk/ which provides an impartial source of information and advice.

Toilet for handicapped people

Strong colours stand out so use them to draw attention to safety features in the room

Choose a strong colour for hand towels, grab rails, toothbrush pot and toilet seat, that contrasts clearly with the floor, walls and bathroom furniture. This draws the eye to them and provides an efficient visual reminder.

Try to keep lights bright, but avoid glare. A motion sensor that turns on the bathroom light automatically when you go in there is always a welcome addition.

Mirrors and reflective surfaces can all too easily become a source of confusion, and ultimately fear, once reflections are no longer understood. It’s good to keep in mind that they may need to be covered or removed at a later stage.

These simple alterations really do have the power to make life that little bit easier, so we hope we’ve inspired you. Good luck with the alterations!

Coping with depression

Recognising the symptoms of depression in someone with dementia may not be as easy as you might expect. 

Many of the symptoms of depression are the same as those of dementia, (and Alzheimer’s disease in particular), and it is not uncommon for people to think they have to just put up with depression as an inevitable part of the disease. This is just not correct however.

Depression. Elderly man

Treatment is available AND is proven effective. It can significantly improve quality of life for both the patient and their carers.

Depression is very common among people with dementia, particularly in the early and middle stages of the disease. Estimates suggest that the figure could be as high as 40% so making yourself aware of what to look out for and the possible treatments available is an important step towards seeking help when, and if, needed.

Signs of Depression

  • Apathy
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Social withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Trouble Concentrating
  •  Impaired thinking

While a diagnosis of dementia can lead to intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fear and even guilt, the cognitive impairment caused by the disease often makes it difficult for the person to articulate these feeling adequately. The symptoms of the depression can therefore all too easily easily be masked by the dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association issues this advice which is helpful in deciding when to seek help:

“For a person to be diagnosed with depression in Alzheimer’s, he or she must have either depressed mood (sad, hopeless, discouraged or tearful) or decreased pleasure in usual activities, along with two or more of the following symptoms for two weeks or longer:

  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Disruption in appetite that is not related to another medical condition
  • Disruption in sleep
  • Agitation or slowed behaviour
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, or inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide plans or a suicide attempt”

Treatment for Depression

People with depression, whether they have dementia or not, are not able to think themselves out of the condition by sheer force of willpower, so simply telling them to “Snap out of it” or “Cheer up”, is not going to help. Support, reassurance and medical help are all required.

Making an appointment to see your GP is an essential first step. This will allow you to explore the options for drug medications, counselling and complimentary therapies that may prove beneficial.

The most effective treatment is likely to involve a combination of medicine, counselling, and gradual reconnection to people and activities that bring happiness.

Grieving TogetherWays for Carers to help

  • Seek out local support groups – These can be a huge source of help both for the person with dementia and their carer. It can be a huge source of comfort to know that you are not alone in dealing with this and there are others in a similar position. They provide a valuable source of information and access to other services and support available locally. Groups can provide fun and meaningful activities geared specifically to those with memory and cognitive problems, and are a great way of maintaining social contacts.
  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings and frustrations while continuing to express positive messages about how you hope they will feel better soon.
  • Plan a predictable daily routine. This can provide reassurance and help schedule activities the person finds challenging at the time of day they are best able to cope.
  • Make a list of activities, people and places the person enjoys. Try to visit/incorporate these more frequently into your diary.
  • Find ways the person can contribute to family life and remember to recognise his/her contribution.
  • Plan in regular exercise, particularly in the mornings, as this can be a fantastic mood enhancer.
  • Provide lots of reassurance the person will not be abandonded.
  • Celebrate small successes and occasions.

Depression is not inevitable and should definitely not be suffered in silence. Help is available so speak out.


Could Complimentary therapies help you with your dementia symptoms?

Over a quarter of all people living with dementia revealed they had used at least one  complementary therapy in the past year when surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Society in 2013.

With the possible side effects of conventional medicines well documented, and people anxious to find any effective way to treat the effects of dementia, complementary therapies are gaining in popularity fast.

But are they safe? And do they work?

What exactly are complimentary therapies?

“Complimentary” refers to an approach or treatment used alongside (not in place of) conventional medicine. Therapies are numerous and wide ranging in nature but all share the aim of attempting to boost a feeling of wellbeing and enhance quality of life.

It can be helpful to divide them into the following groupings:Females Doing Physical Exercise 18 MTI1LTEwMDcuanBn Elderly woman in a wheelchair with a rabbit

Art, Music and Dance
Art and Music both provide useful tools in dementia care by evoking powerful responses and freeing people up from the need to find the right words. Both provide enjoyable and meaningful activities that have the ability to boost mood, increase attention span, expand social interaction and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.

Botanicals, Herbal supplements and Extracts
These include Homeopathy and most commonly, Aromatherapy which uses essential oils extracted from plants and herbs and applies it to the skin through massage, or inhaling by steam inhalation to stimulate the limbic system in the brain. Each essential oil has unique effects (anti-bacterial, diuretic, tranquilising…) and the effect can be hugely relaxing, aiding sleep, calming disturbed behaviours etc.

Exercise eg. Yoga, walking groups…

Pets and Dolls

 • Therapeutic Multi-sensory experiences
These include therapies as wide ranging as group therapies such as Reminiscence and Validation therapies to improve cognitive function, Bright Light therapy (which benefits the circadian rhythm to improve sleep patterns, decrease wandering and agitation etc), Physiotherapy and Acupuncture.

Depositphotos - massagePotential benefits

The aims for complementary treatments can be wide ranging.
Some are geared towards stimulation with such aims as:

• Encouraging social interaction
• Boosting cognitive function
• Stimulating memory
• Encouraging physical activity

Others have relaxation as their main function, with such potential benefits as:

• Reducing disturbed and agitated behaviours
• Promoting sleep
• Easing physical discomfort

All therapies aim to boost mood and instil a feeling of wellbeing. The power of this should not be under-estimated. Dementia often leaves people feeling isolated, withdrawn and depressed so group therapies that allow people to get together to promote socialisation or trigger reminiscences are often a great way to lift someone’s spirits and motivate engagement.

As one man in the early stages of Alzheimer’s commented, “I don’t remember what people told me but I remember how they made me feel”. People report emotions of relaxation or happiness lasting well beyond the therapy session.

How effective are these therapies?

The potential of complementary therapies to boost a feeling of wellbeing and enhance quality of life among people living with dementia is becoming increasingly recognised.
The majority of medical professionals, care home staff and dementia charities, now widely support the use of complementary therapies when used alongside conventional medicine.

Despite plenty of anecdotal stories of individual successes however, scientific research has not managed to keep pace with the ever-growing public interest. High quality scientific research is lacking so there is little solid evidence as yet about the effectiveness of any particular therapy.

Will it work for me ?

A few words of caution may be helpful :

• Everyone experiences dementia in a slightly different way so it is important to bear in mind that what works for one person, may well not work for another. A therapy that promotes happiness and increased motivation in one person also has the capacity to confuse and frustrate another.
Any therapy should be targeted at your individual and distinct needs, and its effectiveness based on yourunique response.

• Current regulation remains patchy for the different forms of complementary therapies, so be wary of possibly exaggerated benefits and successes.

• Just because a therapy is touted as “natural” does not necessarily mean it’s safe for everyone. Some herbal and vitamin supplements or essential oils used in aromatherapy and massage can react significantly – and sometimes negatively – with medication.
Always talk to your Doctor before embarking on any form of therapy to check there are no safety concerns for you personally.

Before embarking on any form of complimentary therapy…..
bear in mind the following points:

Talk first to your doctor –he/she will be able to check there are no safety concerns for you, and make sure that any proposed therapy will not react harmfully against any other treatment being undertaken or proposed. Most doctors are now sympathetic to the use of complementary therapies, and may be able to offer advice about good practitioners in the area or even refer you through the NHS.

Be prepared- before starting any therapy, find out exactly what the treatment will involve, how many visits will be required, what are the likely results you can expect, and importantly, how much it will cost.

Be realistic- therapy cannot magically erase the symptoms, but may help with a particular targeted problem or simply help you relax and boost your mood.

So why not choose a therapy you fancy,
give it a go and see if it works for you!

Click on the links below for our further reading suggestions:
Dementia Treatments” Alzheimers Research uk

• “Factsheet 434 – Complementary and Alternative therapies and Dementia” Alzheimer’s Society

• “Dementia and Music Age UK