What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe a range of symptoms that can include memory loss and problems with reasoning and communication. There can also be changes in personality and a reduction in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as shopping, washing, dressing and cooking. It is commonly combined with frailty related to old age and other long-term and complex conditions.
The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.
There are some factors which may increase a person’s risk of dementia. Some of these are difficult or impossible to change, such as old age or genetic causes. Other factors can also be important, such as alcohol consumption, loneliness or hearing loss. However, it is not known exactly what causes dementia and research is ongoing to try to find the causes and develop treatments.
In Scotland, approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with dementia each year and there are currently around 90,000 people who are living with dementia. The majority of these people are over 65. Although less common, people under 65 can get dementia.
There is a common misconception that the majority of people with dementia live in care homes. In fact, two-thirds of those with dementia in Scotland live at home. Some of these people may be supported by paid carers, or they may get support from family members or friends.
If you care for a family member with dementia, you are not alone.
Being a younger carer for someone with dementia can be challenging. It can be hard to watch a loved one lose the ability to do things. It may be difficult to juggle caring with education, paid work, hobbies, or seeing friends.
This is something young carer Charlotte Foley felt when caring for her grandparents with dementia. As Charlotte says in her blog post…
it’s important to let those around you know if you are struggling, so they can help you. In Charlotte’s case, a support teacher encouraged her to attend a residential music workshop with other young carers. Writing and playing music have now become an important part of her life.
Young carers are dealing with pressures that are already great, and may be experiencing increased pressure at the moment. If you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to speak to someone they trust, whether that’s a friend, a family member, your GP or a helpline such as NHS24 or Breathing Space.
If you’re still at school, you can speak to your teachers or to support staff. They’ll be able to tell you what support your school can offer. There are also organisations which can give you help or advice if you are caring for someone with dementia.
Alzheimer Scotland is a charity representing people with dementia and their carers. You can get help and support from them by calling their free 24 hour Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000.
Care Information Scotland can also give you more information about care services for older people in Scotland. Their helpline is also free. You can call them on 0800 011 3200 or visit their website…
You can also get local support from the carer centre where you live. Your social worker, doctor, teacher or other trusted adult can put you in touch with a carer centre, or you can find a carer centre in your area from this list…
You can get lots more info on the support available for you on Young Scot’s website…
Your rights as a carer
There are important rights which all young carers have to support them. These rights are given by a law called the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016…
The Act defines a young carer as anyone who provides care or intends to do so, who is aged under 18, or is 18 and still in school. There are estimated to be 29,000 young carers in Scotland – but the Scottish Government recognises there could be more.
If you are a Young Carer, the local council that you live should offer you a Young Carer’s Statement. The local council’s social work department or young carers’ service can help find out what help you might need. This helps them to find out more about you, your caring role, your goals, and what is important to you.
The statement gives you a written record of the key points of the conversation with your support worker or other professional.
You may be able to get money to help support you. If you are 16-18 and care for someone, you may be entitled to a grant or an allowance from the government.
The first of its kind in the UK, the Young Carer Grant helps eligible young carers aged 16, 17 or 18 with a payment of £305.10. This payment can be applied for annually and helps you to access the same life opportunities as other young people. It can be spent however you want – such as one a holiday, new clothes or a phone.
Young carers aged 16 or over who provide at least 35 hours of care a week can also apply for Carer’s Allowance, which increases the amount of money given to support you. If you receive Carer’s Allowance in Scotland you can also receive the Carers Allowance Supplement, a one payment of £230.10 to help support carers through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Young Scot have lots more info on how to apply for Young Carer’s Grant and Carer’s Allowance…
Young Scot also have their own young carers package for those who are 11 to 18, which gives young carers with tailored discounts and opportunities…