Dementia is an often misunderstood and misused term when preparing or dealing with aging in place. Like most things that are not understood - the fear of it stems from not understanding it. Here are some basic answers to some questions that will help quell the fear we have of a loved one having dementia.
What is Dementia?
The first thing we need to understand is that dementia in itself is not a disorder or disease. It is the encompassing term for any condition that affects the brain. Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia and is often confused with or mis stated as being another condition than dementia. In fact many people are so confused that they think both are separate conditions.
“There are over 200 subtypes and causes of dementia, but the four most common are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies (which we talk about later). It is possible to have not just one but two types of dementia. The most common is a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, known as mixed dementia.” - https://www.dementiauk.org/
Are there Symptoms for Dementia?
Symptoms for dementia are often confusing as they are easily confused with signs of ordinary aging in themselves. This can often cause the extreme activities - on one hand doing nothing and over or mis diagnosing on the other. It is important that we consult professionals as soon as possible if there are any concerns or signs of dementia.
Symptoms of dementia
- Problems with short term memory
- Regular misplacing of often used objects (wallet, purse, keys, remotes)
- Forgetting appointments
- Problems with making simple ordinary decisions
- Problems with organizing daily schedules
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
Dementia - Treatments and or Prevention?
There is not a “Dementia Test”. Diagnosis comes from a family doctor or specialist who takes a patients’ medical history, a physical examination, lab results, as well as taking into consideration any personality or character changes that might be manifesting.
There are several things that have been proven to keep our minds healthier and more stable. It is important to keep it engaged as much as possible. There is more research being done, but here is a list of things that the Mayo Clinic has provided.
- Keep your mind active - reading, puzzles, and games are shown to offset signs of oncoming dementia
- Physical and Social activity - stay engaged and active
- Get enough Vitamins - a healthy diet is vital for good health in general while studies show that low levels of Vitamin D are present in most Alzheimer’s patients
- Get quality sleep
- Manage cardiovascular conditions - get treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
Treating dementia is as general a term as is “staying healthy”. There are no magic fixes or pills to take. As with most conditions or health issues, it is always better to start prevention long before any symptoms are seen.
Encourage a healthy diet. Keep a busy active schedule. Organize events and daily routines that keep the mind active and working. Keep a healthy sleep schedule. Seek help if any of the above signs of any form of dementia show themselves.
There are promising signs for eventually curing many forms of dementia on the horizon. Recent breakthroughs in curing Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons’ are very encouraging. While we wait for more - seek professional advice . Aging should be an amazing experience. One where we experience joy surrounded by loved ones and memories. Understanding dementia is the first step in beating it.