The World Health Organization’s latest figures show that dementia disease affects more than 50 million people in the world today.
Over ten million new cases are reported each year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
Dementia typically affects the elderly. And with the average life expectancy increasing, more and more people are finding themselves dealing with dementia or stages of memory loss in a parent or a loved one. No one is ever quite prepared for coping with dementia disease. It is crucial for any person who finds themselves caring for such individuals to equip themselves with the necessary knowledge that will help make their caregiving less stressful for both themselves and their patients.
The following is a caregiver’s guide to caring for someone with a diagnosis of dementia disease. Read on and learn more about how to deal with dementia.
More about Dementia
Dementia is a chronic or progressive syndrome characterized by a brain deterioration in cognitive function – the ability to process thought – beyond what is expected from normal age-related memory loss.
As such, cognitive impairment affects a person’s comprehension, thinking, calculation, language, learning capacity, and judgment. However, it does not affect their consciousness. The result of a cognitive functioning impairment is often deterioration in emotional control, which breeds behaviors that are uncharacteristic for the individual.
Dementia is one of the leading causes of disability in older adults worldwide. The effects of this syndrome are not only overwhelming to older adults but for their caregivers as well. And because dementia is still not well understood by most people, in addition to a lack of dementia training for caregivers, dealing with it has physical, psychological, and economic consequences on all parties involved.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia, in itself, is not a specific disease but rather a collective term for a group of conditions associated with impaired cognitive function. It is more than just typical short-term memory loss due to old age. Unfortunately, there is no preventing memory loss and dementia in aging patients. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with about 70 percent of all dementia cases being Alzheimer’s. Other forms of dementia are Huntington’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s dementia, Pick’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, or multi-infarct dementia.
The most common signs and symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Problems with communication
- Mood changes
- A decline in problem-solving skills
- Lack of alertness to their surroundings
- Problems completing daily activities and cleaning living spaces
- Weight loss
- Difficulty with hygiene or bathing
- Have trouble with social activities
- Difficulty with high blood pressure
- Higher stress levels due to forgetfulness and feeling their mind begin to slip
- Behavior changes often characterized by aggression and paranoia
- Limitations of physical activity
These are some of the most common signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms.
What Causes Dementia?
Since dementia is the collective term for various neurological disorders, it can be caused by multiple factors.
Studies show that some types of dementia are genetic such as Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia. Some other forms of dementia, such as dementia pugilistica, are usually a result of direct brain injury or a decrease of blood flow to the brain. Oxygen deprivation is also known to increase the risk of dementia. Tumors that compress the brain cells or nerve cells can also cause dementia disease.
Understanding the Symptoms of Dementia
If you think that you might be dealing with dementia or memory impairment in a parent or another loved one, it is crucial to learn how to recognize the early signs of it. That way, you are not only able to find the best memory care for them, but you can also learn how to better deal with dementia by undertaking dementia training specifically for dementia or Alzheimer’s caregivers.
The symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease include:
Memory lapses are the most prevalent symptom in all types of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is often characterized by the individual telling the same story over and over, mixing up or forgetting names, asking the same question repeatedly, and missing appointments. They will also have difficulty completing activities of daily living.
People with a diagnosis of cognitive decline or dementia disease have difficulty finding the right words to use and often replace with vaguely related words. For instance, they might refer to a car as ‘the driving thing,’ or even resort to pointing at it since they cannot find the right word to use. Over time as the memory loss and forgetfulness progresses, the replacement words become more and more nonsensical.
For example, a person with cognitive decline who is typically courteous may start becoming more and more insensitive. In contrast, a formerly outgoing individual may become shy or nervous and withdraw from social interaction.
The person suffering from stages of dementia or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may become socially withdrawn, unhappy, and have constant mood swings.
Trouble with Routine Tasks
A person with mild cognitive impairment will start having difficulties accomplishing tasks of daily living such as cooking, where they might leave the activity and start doing something entirely different. Losing items also starts becoming more and more common and are typical signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
One of the tell-tale signs of the early stages of dementia disease or early Alzheimer’s disease is the individual starts becoming confused or anxious in unfamiliar places. They also can get lost in areas that they are familiar with as their health and well-being begin to decline.
The above are tell-tale signs that you just might be dealing with memory loss and dementia disease in a loved one.
Alzheimer’s Communication ( How to Talk to Someone with Dementia )
Learning how to talk to someone with a diagnosis of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is essential in helping you provide better long-term care for your patient.
When talking to people suffering from cognitive problems or long-term memory loss, it is best to do it in a place that does not have many stimulations. As such, talk to them in quiet areas that do not have distractions, such as TV or radio.
Body language is also an essential part of Alzheimer’s and dementia communication. Dementia disease patients can understand body language better than words, as such, try and use gestures to help you express your words while maintaining a relaxed posture.
Likewise, you should use a calm, clear, and expressive voice while talking slowly. Keep your words and sentences short and straightforward. Also, make use of pauses in between sentences so that the individual can easily understand what you are trying to communicate to them.
When asking the person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease questions, avoid coming across as interrogative as that might distress them. You also do not want to use baby language with them; maintain their dignity. Utilize ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions as much as you can while avoiding ‘either/or’ choices. E.g., Do not ask them, “Would you like coffee or tea?” Instead, ask, “Would you like coffee?” If they say that they would not like it, ask them if they would like tea.
When taking care of a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it is essential to take care of yourself as well. You can provide better assistance to the one with dementia and not burn out as quickly if you also take time for yourself. Take regular breaks and delegate the duty to a family member or friend temporarily.
In addition to doing things that you like during those breaks to relax, attending caregiver forums and finding time to speak to other people who are in your same position proves to be invaluable.
Dementia Care Options
Since people with dementia need full-time support, you will either have to dedicate all your time to taking care of them or take them to memory care facilities for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients.
In addition to learning how to provide individualized care for the dementia resident, you will need to redesign your living spaces to make it suitable for someone living with dementia. Consider:
- Decorating with objects that they are attached to that can trigger memories from mementos and photographs from earlier years.
- Label things that your patient needs to use.
- Serve meals and use cutlery designed for people with dementia.
Unfortunately, dementia will continue progressing. It might reach a point where you will need to consider professional help beyond that found in in-home care and need to resort to a memory care residence or hospice care at senior living communities.
Dementia Care Home
When you are no longer able to meet the needs of your patient, you may need to consider moving them to a senior living community for dementia patients, equipped with the necessary resources to provide the best dementia or Alzheimer’s care for the individual.
The community or home will provide an around-the-clock continuum of care by professional caregivers, licensed nurses, and staff who will be trained and experienced in caring for individuals with severe dementia. They may also offer therapy, drugs, or medications to help with mental health treatment and improve the quality of life for residents with dementia. This ensures that the individual is always comfortable. You will get peace of mind knowing that they are well taken care of at the long-term care facility as you handle other responsibilities.
Some of the effects of moving a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to a memory care facility include the initial disorientation the patient will have due to the new surroundings, and your inability to see and care for them 24/7. Nonetheless, despite the effects of moving a person with dementia, a care assisted living home will be able to meet their senior care needs probably more than you effectively can.
Are you about to start providing Alzheimer’s and dementia care for someone? Educate yourself on the best ways to provide them with the best dementia or Alzheimer’s care. Use this caregiver’s guide to dementia as a start while doing further research for treatment for Alzheimer’s or dementia. Caregiving is an intensive duty that will require your undivided attention. If you are not in a position to provide that level of constant care, consider taking your loved one to a specialized memory care nursing home where they will find the best environment for their needs.