What is Dementia?
Dementia is actually not a disease in and of itself but, rather, a syndrome that is characterized by a collection of symptoms affecting cognition and memory, making it hard to remember, think clearly, and make decisions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, although it’s important to note that not all people who have been diagnosed with dementia necessarily have Alzheimer’s Disease. Some other types of dementia typically identified are vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontal temporal, and mixed dementia.
All of us have occasional problems recalling a name, accessing an old memory, or remembering where we may have parked our car. But someone living with dementia exhibits a range of troubling and persistent symptoms that get worse and may include:
Changes in mood and personality
Decreased or poor judgment
Problems speaking or writing
Confusion with time or place
Disruptions in daily life due to memory loss
Difficulty managing everyday tasks
If your loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to know that it does not necessarily mean they have dementia. Other things like depression, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, and infections can present many of these signs. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it’s essential that you consult a physician who can assess the situation and make a proper diagnosis. No single test can make a determination. A diagnosis is based on a range of medical tests from which a baseline can be created combined with the medical history of the person being assessed.
Dementia is a progressive condition. It gets worse over time, not better. For some, it progresses rapidly; in others, it takes years to get to the point where outside help is required. The progression depends largely on the underlying cause, whether it be Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, Parkinson’s disease, or some other root condition. While people will experience stages of dementia differently, most will exhibit some of the symptoms. On average, dementia patients will live four to eight years after their diagnosis, although some live as long as 20 years after being diagnosed.
Who is Affected?
Dementia is more commonly diagnosed in people over 65, but it can affect people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. The estimated average age of onset of dementia in the U.S. is 83+ years old. Seventy-three percent are age 75 or older.
Getting the Help You Need
If someone you know suffers from dementia, there are expert resources available that can help you navigate the progression of the disease. The sooner you familiarize yourself with them, the better.
Certified Dementia Practitioners can help you decide on the right help at the right time including setting up in-home visits, scheduling respite care, and learning important communication skills. These practitioners like the ones at Senior Care Solutions are a wealth of knowledge and compassionate. You'll never feel like you're a bother to them. Should placing your loved one in an assisted living home or group home become warranted, they can help you decide on which is best for your loved one as well.
Keeping your loved one happy and providing them with a life well lived should not be understated. They'll be confused, upset, and sometimes suffer from depression and want to be isolated. All of these are not the outcome anyone wants. Life Enrichment Specialists know how to communicate, create an environment of safety, and blend art and faith to nurture those living with Alzheimer's, cognitive, and physical challenges. Whether engagement is focused on art observation, painting, spiritual programs, or other life-enriching opportunities, organizations like Artisan Mind can engage them in meaningful ways, providing them with purposeful lives.
Of course, finances are a huge concern. You want the best for your loved one, but not having unlimited resources can create situations where difficult decision-making becomes very uncomfortable and can often cause the caregiver to feel shame and guilt. It's possible the person with dementia was the one taking care of the finances and can no longer do so. Someone's personal and professional assets - everything they've ever worked for - are at stake. This is the time you need a Professional Fiduciary. The team at AD Fiduciary help their clients assess, plan, implement, and monitor their financial, legal, and personal care needs with integrity and trust. As fiduciaries, it is their duty and honor to protect the wishes and best interests of those they represent. They provide you with the guidance, understanding, and compassion you need at a time such as this.
It is so important to remember that you are not alone. Professionals exist, whose singular purpose is to respond to the challenges of those diagnosed with dementia, and help the caregivers and families of those who are struck with these terrible diagnoses. They're there for you.