Coping with the Dementia Epidemic – Support Network Counselling Directory Find Psychotherapy and CBT to be Effective Solutions

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With a rapidly aging population in which one in three over 65-year-olds are expected to die from dementia, how will society care for the ever-increasing number of people with the disease? * Counselling Directory reports that psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could provide a solution to providing both relief and practical coping mechanisms to both sufferers and caregivers.

Counselling Directory

Counselling Directory

Evidence shows that psychotherapy - CBT in particular – has been found to help treat depression, anxiety and problem behaviour in patients.

There are numerous pressing issues that the health and social care systems are currently struggling to tackle; obesity, sedentary lifestyles and a rise in mental health problems are to name but a few. However, there is one disease in particular that is silently meandering it’s way through the ranks of the elderly population, fast becoming the most widely acknowledged problem that we as a society are to face – dementia.

Dementia is the term used to describe a series of symptoms including memory loss, mood alterations and communication and reasoning problems. The symptoms arise and occur when the brain is damaged either by certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s (the most common cause of dementia affecting around 496,000 people in the UK**), or by a series of mini strokes.

All forms of dementia are progressive, meaning that brain chemistry and structure will become increasingly damaged over time and thus symptoms will worsen gradually. The speed at which the disease progresses will depend on the individual – their physical make-up, emotional resilience and available support will all play a role.

Being diagnosed with dementia, or indeed caring for someone who has it, can trigger a deluge of distressing and confusing emotions – which is when external support from a counsellor or psychotherapist could be utilised as an effective tool.

Understanding what is happening and contemplating the changes that will occur can be overwhelming. For a dementia sufferer, anger, anxiety and fear are extremely difficult emotions to come to terms with alone, and counselling/psychotherapy will offer them the opportunity to openly discuss their feelings and learn how to adjust to the conditions so they are able to live more comfortably.

For a carer, guilt, grief, sadness and depression can make life a very lonely place, and psychotherapy could provide additional support outside of their network of family and friends.

According to Alzheimer’s UK, research has suggested that counselling can play a role in helping individuals with an early diagnosis of dementia***. Additional evidence also shows that psychotherapy - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in particular (a form of talk therapy that aims to alter how you think, feel and behave) – has been found to help treat depression, anxiety and problem behaviour in patients.

As mentioned previously, it isn’t just dementia patients who may benefit from counselling but also their caregivers.

Huddersfield based counsellor Nicola Bell is no stranger to the devastating effects of dementia, having a heightened awareness as a result of her mum suffering from Alzheimer’s.

As a daughter Nicola is experiencing the breakdown of her relationship with her mum, and explains how the entire family are all suffering from the loss of who she was and what she meant to each of them.

“There are times when we get a glimpse of her as she was and still is at times, and then she becomes childlike and selfish, often aggressive towards all of us especially dad. It helps to understand that this is not her it is the illness.” She explained.

Nicola’s situation means that as a counsellor, she has a deep and empathetic understanding for those who find themselves in a similar situation. It’s difficult to say whether or not her personal experiences alter the way she counsels, but she does certainly hold this in awareness and is thus able to offer clients coping strategies and ways to explore their feelings.

Bath based counsellor Tess Romag also specialises in providing support for carers. Tess first gained insight into the condition whilst doing some care work for those who have dementia in her spare time. Her experience means she is now able to offer both practical and emotional understanding and support. Below, Tess shares her top five tips for individuals caring for a loved one with dementia:

1. As a loved one’s behaviour changes, one must change one’s own approach, finding ways to deal with someone who often forgets or who doesn’t recognise their friends and family. Remember, it isn’t their fault and they too are frustrated with their limitations. Putting yourself in their shoes can help to maintain perspective.

2. Try to remain calm and rational. Snapping or shouting won't help, and can often make it worse by creating noise and tension.

3. If something doesn't really matter that much, try not to be insistent about it. For example if a carer is called the wrong name, as upsetting as this might be try to let it go and accept it for the moment.

4. Allow them to carry on making choices, including refusing.

5. Follow their cues to keep them safe and secure and remember to be compassionate. They are trying hard to make sense of things.

6. Remember to encourage them to retain a sense of independence, thus allowing them to have a sense of dignity, pride and ability.

Whilst there is no cure for dementia, there are certainly ways of delaying the onset and learning to live more comfortably. Carers or dementia patients who are looking for additional practical and emotional support may find that psychotherapy/CBT may help to release some of the associated stresses and strains. Visit the Counselling Directory dementia fact-sheet to find out more.

About Counselling Directory

Counselling Directory recognised the need for a service that collated all of the information needed to help those in distress. Having access to the right information and finding the right counsellor is a really important step, and though other directories may supply contact details, Counselling Directory goes that extra mile and provides clarification of the support each counsellor offers.

Counselling Directory lists full profiles, detailing the areas of counselling each counsellor offers, the fees they charge and background information as to the kind of person they are, as well as providing a wealth of information about counselling and psychotherapy on the website so visitors can find all the information they need before choosing a counsellor.

References
*Alzheimer’s Society (n.d.) Facts for the media. Available: http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=535&pageNumber=2
**Henley, J. (2012) The village where people have dementia – and fun. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/27/dementia-village-residents-have-fun?newsfeed=true
*** Alzheimer’s Society (n.d.) Talking therapies (including counselling, psychotherapy and CBT)

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Emma Hilton, Press Officer

Emma Hilton, Press Officer
Memiah Limited
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