Monday, 14 January 2013

Let's Not Forget Physical Decline

There is some fantastic work and developments focusing on the needs of those who suffer with Dementia. We have had the ‘Christmas to Remember Campaign’, the Department of Health announcing £22 million being made available for dementia research projects and the work of the Dementia Challengers has been outstanding in raising the awareness of the disease which impacts on the lives of millions.

Yet while dementia is the most prevalent of the age related conditions that could impact on the life of an older person there is, perhaps, a danger that the discourse of elderly care becomes one where adult social care for the over 65’s is solely equated to dementia . Whereas there are many other age-related conditions which are debilitating for individuals and which also need to be fully addressed.

Parkinson’s disease affects around 127,000 people, the majority of whom are over the age of 65. It is a disease which leads to physical, rather than cognitive, decline as the disease progresses but can also include other problems such as depression, pain and constipation. As the physical deterioration progresses it becomes harder and harder for the individual to make the tasks of daily living and increases the need for help and support.

Naturally it does not take a huge leap in imagination to think about how you would feel if your body no longer functioned properly, yet you retained you cognitive awareness, imagine the frustration and potential effect on your mental health. Being unable to undertake the simplest daily tasks without help can be frustrating, I know, from personal experience how embarrassed my Nan feels when she cannot even make a cup of tea for guests when they call.  

Other physical deterioration may also affect an individual. Sight, in particular, is subject to deterioration through many different conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. As people lose their sight they may need social care support to help them in their everyday lives to make adjustments in how the undertake daily tasks and to reduce the risks of physical injury.

Sight, obviously, is not the only physical deterioration that can come with age and we need to ensure that anyone who needs physical help receives the support they need.

Naturally all of these physical conditions can also affect those who have dementia. There is always a danger that those who provide care and support only see the dementia rather than the range of issues affecting an individual. It is easy to focus on the one condition of cognitive decline yet ignore the other issues that a person needs to be supported with.

Yet we also need to ensure that those who do not have dementia but have other age related conditions of physical decline also receive the correct level of support. Physical decline can lead to other issues, such as being prone to falls, which then further impact on a person’s life.

Social care services must focus on all needs and it is important to ensure that alongside the excellent initiatives for dementia people with other conditions and diseases are recognised and supported.