When your loved one suffers from dementia, it can be difficult to know how to help them. With assisted community living, you have access to professionals and professional care. They can be a great asset to your family in caring for your loved one.
But what exactly is dementia, what triggers it and is it curable? Let's take a closer look.
What Is Dementia?
The first thing everyone should understand is that dementia itself is not a particular disease. It can be thought of as a blanket term to describe several conditions which affect the brain.
There is a wide range of symptoms associated with dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and senile dementia. All are diseases commonly found in seniors.
The symptoms may vary, but in order to properly say someone "has dementia," those symptoms should fall under at least three of the following categories.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in communicating and speaking a native language
- Loss of focus and ability to pay attention
- Irrational reasoning and lack of wise judgment
- Visual perception loss or deterioration
If someone has just one or two of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean they are suffering from dementia. In addition, while dementia often affects older people, it is definitely not inevitable. That is to say, it is not the normal course of aging.
Different Types of Dementia
Some types of dementias are progressive. That is when symptoms develop very slowly, but worsen over time. This is why you should not ignore the little signs. If your loved one starts having trouble remembering daily details, look into seeing a doctor for a professional evaluation. They can help you detect early signs of progressive dementia so you can get treatment as soon as possible.
A professional evaluation can also help determine whether or not to put your loved one in a care home. Start as early as possible to get counseling and a diagnosis in order to benefit from available treatments and plan out your future.
Scientist and doctors now know that dementia is caused when our brain cells are damaged. When those brain cells lose the ability to properly communicate, the normal behavior patterns, such as thinking, feeling and reacting, are affected.
But there are different types of brain cell damage, each of which can affect different regions of the brain. This is how different types of dementia come about. For example, an elderly person suffering from Alzheimer's disease has been affected in a brain region called the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. Another person may have a type of dementia that is actually caused by a vitamin deficiency. In this case, seeking medical help and obtaining the proper vitamins will help them improve.
What Can Worsen a Person's Dementia?
The following are things that can exacerbate a case of dementia, especially in older people:
- Excessive use of alcohol and other drugs
- Mental depression
- Negative side effects from any other prescribed medication
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Family thyroid problems
- Personality changes
Who Is at Risk for Dementia?
Age is a big factor, especially in people over the age of 65, but having a family history of dementia means that the individual is at greater risk.
Another factor is high blood pressure or high cholesterol problems. Excess fat clogging the artery walls can lead to obesity and a higher risk of diseases associated with dementia, such as diabetes.
Depression is another great risk factor, which often affects those in the last stages of life. When they have given up hope -- perhaps because all of their loved ones have already passed on and they are living alone -- it is it is easy for them to become lonely and depressed.
Heavy smokers and heavy drinkers are also at greater risk of developing dementia. This makes it essential for elderly people to keep their health in check. A balanced diet and regular exercise are key factors in sustaining a healthy heart and a happy, functioning mind.
When your loved one cannot perform daily tasks such as getting dressed in the morning or taking public transportation, this affects their self-esteem. They're more likely to stay home, where they may become isolated and extremely lonely.
Easy Ways to Help Your Loved One Through Dementia
If you want to know how to help your family member, here are some easy tips. Try playing word games or mind games with them, such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles. This trains their memory and could decrease the effects of memory loss.
Encourage them to remain physically active and engage in regular social interaction outside of their homes. If they're unwell and unable to move about, encourage others to visit them, especially if they have expressed the desire to see other people.
Also help them get vitamins, fresh air and sunshine. Keep their diet in check and let them know how much you care about them.
We strongly encourage older folks to seek out social activities, many of which are often available on a daily basis within care homes, such as Heritage Villas centers. Call us today to schedule a consultation or visit a center near you.