INSPIRED by Dementia Action Awareness Week, reporter Rebecca Rayner has looked in to how a specialist residential home in Andover is encouraging people to approach dementia in a different way

When looking at the statistics, it is surprising to see that for such a prevalent disease, the amount of awareness we have does not match up. Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK. As the population continues to get older, it's projected that by 2025 over a million people in the UK will have dementia.

When celebrities such as Barbara Windsor come forward with a diagnosis, it does help bring awareness, but really do you know how the disease is managed? The effects that purely clinical based care can have? That there are actually over 130 different kinds of dementia?

People are living longer, meaning it is time we learn more about this disease.

The Arbory is a dementia care home in London Road. It’s 60 residents all live with different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's, the most common type.

“The philosophy that we carry is that we aim to be improving people's lives. Whereas dementia is something which causes peoples lives to deteriorate.” said Iain Slack, the home's registered manager.

“One of the most important things to remember is that people with dementia don't know they have dementia so as far as they are concerned there's nothing wrong with them.

“They are unable to determine where they are in time and place. So here becomes their home but they could feel they are visiting, some feel like they're in a doctor's surgery, others feel like they are in an airport and so their behaviour follows what they feel.

“So we fit into that and we become whoever they believe at any given time that we are.

“I would say out of the 60 people here, only two or three know that they're in a residential care home. Everybody else has got no idea where they are.”

Dementia can often be misunderstood. People's behaviours can easily be labelled as aggressive and managed unnecessarily by medication.

But by taking the time to understand the ways the disease affects the brain means better care can be given.

“I think we as carers cause that because of our ignorance," added Iain. "When you you start to look beneath the label and say why is this person behaving like that, you start to realise that it's because they are frightened. You can't tell me that because you don't have any language any more, and you can't formulate those thoughts anymore."

Iain believes that by understanding how the disease affects the functions of the brain, alongside making people feel valued, has allowed the home to reduce medication and see less difficult outbursts than may be found in other places.

The Arbory also believes that working with families to understand dementia is an important factor.

Iain added: “We see lots of guilt and pain and senses of failure from the carers, especially from husbands and wives where they've tried so hard to look after this person that they love and cherish, until they suddenly realise that they can't do it anymore and then they have to give them up.

“And the sadness is not only do they have to give them up, they have to pay for the pleasure of it.

“I know when they go into the car park, they're not just going there to go to their car, they're going to have a cry, so when they leave the building I know they are in tears.”

He discussed how he tries to encourage loved ones to rethink the way they visit, coming to engage in the home and engage with their loved ones as people, not as a specific relation.

Iain wants anyone in the community that may be struggling with dementia to contact him or to attend one of the free dementia awareness training events they put on.