Highlighting the Needs of Individuals with Dementia

I recently read about NHS England’s exciting new dementia diagnosis drive where hundreds more individuals will be checked for dementia. This specialist service is being trialled across England through 14 new pilot schemes; care home residents will be proactively assessed for their condition by Specialist Nurses and other Healthcare Professionals.

A timely diagnosis ensures that individuals and their support network can manage the condition more effectively, and it can promote improved health outcomes. The pandemic may have led to dementia diagnoses being missed, so this new initiative will open doors to the needed support, including information, advice and treatment. It also allows the care homes to tailor their support and informs long-term care planning.

I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to highlight how specialist seating can play a role within the wider holistic management of dementia to ensure all needs are met, given the impact the condition can have on movement and posture.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not a disease but an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by different diseases1, where cognitive function declines beyond what might be expected from biological ageing, including Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause.2

Dementia can have a devastating effect, not only on the individual diagnosed but also on families, carers and wider society.3

Different types of dementia can affect individuals differently, and they will experience symptoms in their own way.However, some common early symptoms may appear sometime before a diagnosis of dementia; these include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion about time and place, and mood changes.

How does dementia affect movement and posture?

In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies, an individual’s cognitive and physical decline can result in the lack of ability to move effectively, safely and independently. Problems can include:

  • Reduced muscle mass due to a reduction in physical activity.
  • Complex motor sequences become less coordinated, resulting in difficulty mobilising.
  • An increased risk of falls.
  • Eventually becoming confined to one position.

This can result in the following postural challenges:

How can specialist seating help?

Meeting the individual’s seating needs is a critical part of their holistic management because, as we know, postural care can have a significant impact on health and well-being. Destructive postures are not inevitable5; the right seating solution at the right time can:

  • Encourage energy conservation as the body segments work efficiently together.
  • Promote postural stability for enhanced comfort and functional independence.
  • Support an upright sitting position for optimal physiological function.
  • Allow for opportunities to interact and engage with people and the environment.
  • Enhance feelings of safety and security with improved mood and behaviour.
  • Reduce the risk of secondary complications, such as body distortion and pressure injury.

Specialist seating can also reduce carer effort and dependency, ensuring safety for the support network. Moving and handling can be supported through chair functions such as tilt-in-space, if appropriate, by utilising gravity to position the pelvis at the back of the chair. Castors, ergonomic push handles, and powered options can make chair use and manoeuvrability smoother around the environment.

A comprehensive seating assessment will consider the physical, cognitive and behavioural factors that impact optimum sitting position and inform an effective seating prescription.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if an individual you support has a new diagnosis of dementia and you wish to discuss the importance of postural care in sitting. We can provide a free, no-obligation demonstration to understand better how specialist seating can help and which CareFlex chair would be the ideal seating solution.

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  1. NHS Choices (2017) Dementia guide Available from: nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/
  1. Alzheimer’s Society (2018) Alzheimer’s Society’s view on demographyAvailable from: alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/policy-and-influencing/what-we-think/demography
  1. Public Health England (2018) Dementia: applying All Our HealthAvailable from: gov.uk/government/publications/dementia-applying-all-our-health/dementia-applying-all-our-health
  1. NICE (2018) Dementia: assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and their carers[NG97] Available from: nice.org.uk/guidance/ng97
  1. Public Health England (2018) Postural care and people with learning disabilities: guidance Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/postural-care-services-making-reasonable-adjustments/postural-care-and-people-with-learning-disabilities