Dementia Q&A

We’ve had over 50 questions on dementia. I’m going to run though around 15 of them. Fantastic questions.

I’ve had a discussion with the GP on our team around each of the questions.

I’m going to give a brief answer to each and I’ll go into more detail on each over the coming weeks and months.

This will hopefully provide some background into dementia and how to best support your loved ones and how to get the most out of home care.

By it’s nature dementia is an inconsistent disease, it is best to seek an in person face to face consultation with a GP who will be able to take into account your or your loved ones’ medical history.

Do the share the Q&A. If you’re watching or have any other questions about dementia or how home care or live in care could help you do leave me a comment in the live chat below…

Click on each question below to reveal the answer/discussion.

Erik - Can you please educate us about Parkinson’s disease dementia? How this might be similar and different compared to other dementias.

Parkinson’s is a long-term disorder of the central nervous system, the main difference with Parkinson’s is that it mainly affects the motor system and so people living with Parkinson’s may have difficulties with movement, walking and particularly using their hands, so chopping, preparing food and using a mobile can be difficult. It may be useful to consider a carer or family member to help support with tasks such as cooking and personal grooming.

Emmy - Is it safe to drive if you have dementia? If yes, when is it no longer safe?


It is safe to drive with dementia. Driving is automatic behaviour and is in the long term memory.

People living with dementia mainly have problems with their short term memory and long term memory is usually less affected. Generally - problems will be with getting lost, forgetting where the car is etc.

A person living with dementia may be able to drive to the doctors for example without any problems however they may forget they are going to the doctors or become confused as to how they will get there.

Any physical disabilities will play more of an impact - sight, hearing loss, movement etc. You’ll need to make a judgement about whether it’s safe or not or you can ask your doctor to help make that judgement.

We have carers that drive and can support with maintaining independence.

Larry - Does having surgery speed up the disease; dementia.

The brain has a huge capacity it can cope with changes in environment and all sorts.

A person living with dementia though has a reduced capacity and is less able to cope with change. The most important thing is keeping things the same and consistent… the same location, same carer, same schedule if possible etc.

Now, when you have surgery you go into a different environment (hospital). The brain then has to cope with lots of different changes and distractions which can cause a temporary regression. So it’s likely that the change in environment may cause a regression rather than the surgery itself interestingly.

Perhaps think about you can lesses the transition to new environments, perhaps prepare the person in advance of any changes if possible. Talk them through the changes, when they will happen and what to expect.

Jeanette - What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Dementia is the term for a 100 different conditions and symptoms. One of these is Alzheimer's.

If you’ve got Alzheimer’s you’ve got Alzheimer’s disease and you’ve got Dementia. If you’ve got dementia you may have Alzheimers, or you may have vascular dementia, or lewy bodies dementia…. Or one of the other dementias.

Sian - Why does the length of decline differ if the type of dementia a person is living with is the same? 👍

It’s the nature of the disease in that it is inconsistent and affects people differently because we are genetically different. Environmental factors will also play a part too, the amount and quality of sleep, consistently of the environment and diet can all have an impact on the decline.

With consistency in mind and knowing the impact this can have on a person living with dementia, this is why we focus on having a consistent home carer in place for each family. It truly is what each family needs.

Val - Why is my Mum, who has dementia, fairly rational for a few hours and totally confused by tea time?

Again, It’s the nature of the disease. It’s inconsistent. But it can also be affected by the environment. Consistency of the environment, sleep, diet, schedule can all play apart in causing confusion.

Why does it hurt us so much?

It can seem as if you’re losing the person. With some dementias, particularly Alzheimer’s the person’s personality can change. The physical person is still there but their personality may change. The closer you are to that person the more its going to hurt. It’s perhaps best to remember than dementia is a small part of the person and to remember all of the other things and years that make up that person.

Barbara - Why are childhood memories so vivid for people living with dementia, when they can't remember what happened this morning?

If you look back through the posts you’ll come across the Alzheimer’s Society’s Bookcase Analogy. This brilliantly explains why people living with dementia can recall vividly memories from a long time ago but struggle to remember what they had for breakfast or what they did yesterday.

Click here to view the written post and video.

Peter - What qualifications do you have that are sufficient to be able to provide accurate and credible information? What are your motivations behind doing these posts? Is it just to advertise your own business perhaps?

Yes, we have a business. But we want to provide genuine value and education to people. If they then want to work with us that’s cool and if they don’t that’s cool too!

I (Christopher) am an Alzheimer's Society Dementia Friends Champion, I volunteer for the Alzheimers’s Society as a trainer. I’ve been working with people with dementia for over 2 years. On my team I have a GP with over 30 years’ experience working in the NHS who I’ve conferred with in order to accurately answer these questions.

Leslie - Why is no one talking about nutrition? It angers me knowing that my dad’s condition could have been slowed down. Once we eliminated sugar, dairy & gluten & added way more fruits and vegetables, his memory came back, his aggression went away, and he came off sedative meds which all lead to a MUCH greater quality of life. I’ve been researching dementia for years and happy to share everything we’ve learned.

Diet is another environmental variable. I said that environmental factors can affect dementia and it’s rate of progress. Diet and nutrition is one of those variables that will help to improve wellbeing… Interesting you talk about the sedative meds… you’ll probably find the drug companies would probably prefer you didn’t know about cutting out sugar, dairy and gluten!

Lynn - Why or how do younger people develop early onset dementia ? My mother died last year at the age of 62 yrs old. She was diagnosed 5 years prior. We had such a short time to get our heads around it. 😔

It’s a myth that dementia only occurs in older people. Young people can get dementia.

There’s a charity called Young Dementia, do check that out. We don’t know for sure what causes it yet or why we get it. There’s a lot of research being done into tablets, knocks on the head and there’s also research going on about heading a football and boxing…

Paula - How/why does dementia kill people?

It doesn’t kill you. Dementia is not a disease that kills you. Not like malaria will. It may make you more susceptible to other illnesses like pneumonia though which then might kill you. But dementia doesn’t kill you as such.

Marion - Why do people tell me I don't look like or speak like I have Dementia?

Brilliant question.

Dementia a physical disease of the brain.

But It’s not an external physical disease or injury like a broken arm or leg or bleeding. The brain is an internal organ, we can't see it. In that sense dementia is invisible.

Brandy - Sorry theres a few that come to mind. How do you cope with your loved ones dementia?

With support, understanding the disease and with consistency - a stabilised environment. The same consistent carer each day, a regular and consistent schedule, a regular diet.

Also A safe environment, removing rugs and having well fitted shoes are good quick wins.

How do you help someone who knows they have dementia, and gets frustrated that they cant remember?

Don’t show them they’re wrong, don’t correct their mistakes, don’t argue with them. Play along each time. Otherwise it agitates them and can make things worse.

We encourage out home carers and our live in carers to be firm, empathic, understanding and reassuring. It's important to get the right balance - being firm, understanding and reasurring but not too much that it creates a dependence.

Why do you see it progress faster in some and not in others?

See above answers, it’s about a person’s genetics and their environment and other factors. It’s the nature of the disease in that it is inconsistent and affects people differently because we are genetically different. Environmental factors will play a part too, amount of sleep, consistently of environment etc.

Guillaume - Does a dementia scale exist?

Yes. It progresses at different rates depending on the things we’ve discussed and also which dementia it is. Alzheimer’s is progressive at the same steady rate whilst vascular dementia is more step like in it’s progression. With vascular dementia a person can be at the same level of health and wellbeing for a long time and then there may be a sudden decline.

Kristina - When do you start seeing the first symptoms, what age? What are the first symptoms?

It’s a myth that dementia is just in older people. Young people get dementia, as I said above there is a charity called Young Dementia. It’s more rare though. Quite often the first symptoms will be confusion or a loss of short term memory not long term memory.

I’m also going to go into each question in more dept over the coming months… so stay tuned for that. 

If you liked the Q&A so share it via email or social media, leave me a comment in the live chat below. Did you find out anything new, let me know in the live chat or on the video on social media.

If you know someone who needs some support let them or their family members know about me and about CareChooser and I’ll see you soon. 

Christopher “Picks Star Carers” Downie

P.S. Whenever you’re ready... here are 5 ways I can help improve the wellbeing of your elderly parents/spouse:
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