HOW CAN PSYCHOLOGY HELP TREAT PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM DEMENTIA?”
Remember it’s a Key QUESTION. If the Examiner asks you what it is, don’t write “Dementia”. “Dementia” isn’t a question. Questions have question marks at the end and start with a word like “how”.
The exam may ask you to “summarise” your Key Question. This means giving some of the information below.
THE FEATURES OF DEMENTIA & ALZHEIMER'S
“Features” means facts about your Key Issue – what forms does it takes, what types are there? (You’re not talking any Psychology here. It’s general knowledge really.) Later you can explain the cognitive psychology behind the progressive loss of memory
Dementia is an illness that affects 850,000 people in the UK. It is set to rise to 1 million people by 2025. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s. It tends to affect the elderly but there are 40,000 people under 65 in the UK with dementia.
The common symptoms of dementia include:
There is no cure for dementia but it is estimated that if we could delay the onset of dementia by five years, we would halve the number of deaths from dementia. Most research is into diagnosing dementia early, slowing down the onset of the disease and reducing the stress and unhappiness of sufferers.
Dementia often creeps up on people because they expect to have memory problems as they get older so they don’t notice the symptoms until the disease is quite far advanced.
Prof. Bruno at Liverpool Hope University has developed a test to diagnose dementia before the effects start to show themselves.
His patients do a word recall test from a list of 15 words.
Normal memory should recall many of the first 4 words from the list but some patients recalled words from the middle of the list instead. These patients turned out to be much more likely to develop dementia.
Bruno makes a distinction between “healthy” memory loss from old age and “pathological” memory loss that his test seems to detect.
Prof. Bruno hopes tests like this will help pick up a warning sign of dementia before sufferers realise there is anything wrong with their memories.
This therapy for dementia stimulates the mind. It involves patients getting together in groups to discuss, play games and solve puzzles. Often the activities are linked to memories, like looking at old photographs, listening to old songs or using old skills (such as skittles).
Cognitive Stimulation works best for patients in the mild to moderate stages of dementia. It can slow down the progress of the disease as well as reduce stress and loneliness.
Variations of Cognitive Stimulation involve using music or introducing patients to pets. A charming version of this is in Seattle where the 400 residents of Providence Mount St Vincent Residential Home ("The Mount") meet up with 150 kindergarten children 5 days a week. Staff report that the residents become lucid when they play with the children and join in their games and storytelling. They refer to this as “moments of grace”.
THE DEMENTIA VILLAGE
Hogewey is a care home in the Netherlands for elderly with extreme dementia. Most are over the age of 80. Hogewey is unusual because the patients live nearly normal lives there. There are no locked doors and residents (they are never called ‘patients’) are free to wander about: join clubs, go for beauty treatment, perform music, play bingo, take walks.
Different parts of the village look like different types of homes – upper class with lace and chandeliers, cultural with books and art, urban with pop radio and cafes. All the waiters and shopkeepers are actually nurses and orderlies.
Hogewey is a type of Validation Therapy. Rather than continually being told they are wrong and deluded about things, the residents are allowed to live out their imagined life. This reduces stress and keeps the residents active, so that they need less medication and are more fit than most dementia sufferers.
APPLYING PSYCHOLOGY TO THE KEY QUESTION