Anyone with an aging parent or another loved relative has probably considered the possibility of Dementia. It is a widely recognized problem, yet one that can oftentimes be misunderstood. While there is no cure for progressing Dementia, there are many ways to help someone to manage life with this condition.
Types of Dementia
Many people mistakenly believe that Dementia is a specific disease. However, there are numerous different types of Dementia that can cause similar symptoms, with Alzheimer’s being the most common (responsible for 60-80% of cases). All forms of Dementia are progressive and symptoms will become more severe over time. It is incurable and will eventually lead to total dependence and death.
Do All Older People Get Dementia?
The risk of Dementia does increase substantially with age. It can occur in younger people, but this is much less likely and is usually due to a specific genetic abnormality or a brain injury. About 1 in 14 people over 65 are diagnosed with Dementia and the number increases with more advanced ages.
Not All Memory Loss is Dementia
This doesn’t mean that an elderly loved one is automatically suffering from Dementia, however. Although some minor mental changes, such as slower processing and a decrease in short term memory, do occur with age, but the term Dementia specifically describes a significant decline in cognitive function that affects all aspects of life. This is more extreme than forgetting a name or making an error on a calculation. With normal aging, individuals will eventually recall the information they are missing, or fix the error. Dementia suggests more than a loss of information; it can affect a person’s ability to understand relationships and solve problems.
What to Expect With Dementia
Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia progress at different rates. The gradual decay may progress at different speeds in different individuals. Some people may remain at a stable level for a number of years, while others will quickly lose cognitive faculties. The average life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is 4-8 years, so there is a good deal of time to prepare after a loved one’s diagnosis.
For example, with Alzheimer’s disease, an abnormal protein builds up around the brain cells, and the neurons are less capable of communicating with each other. As more and more brain cells become non-functional, cognitive processing, behavior, and even vision and depth perception will be affected. There are different stages of Alzheimer’s – mild, moderate, and severe. Individuals in the early mild stage may start to exhibit minor mental gaps; moderate cases have more behavior changes and require minimal assistance with daily function, while severe cases will need constant care. Each stage may last a different amount of time in each individual. Other diseases that cause Dementia affect the brain in different ways and may progress somewhat differently, but individuals in the latter stages of any form of Dementia will still require constant care.
Diagnosing an Individual With Dementia
The first signs of Dementia in a loved one can be difficult to catch. Most people can be forgetful or lose focus at times, and one is often reluctant to assume the worst. In many cases, the individual themselves will notice changes. If your parent, or another elderly relative expresses a concern about their mental state, it’s a good idea to encourage them to schedule an evaluation. Although there is no cure for progressing Dementia, some medications and lifestyle changes can decrease symptoms and slow down the process of disease. It’s important to get treatment and also to take steps that will minimize the risks associated with decreasing cognitive abilities. It’s also possible that the problem is not progressive and your relative has a treatable form of Dementia.
Most initial consultations are scheduled with a general practitioner who will then recommend other specialists, including psychologists, neurologists, and counselors, as needed. A thorough interview and testing process will evaluate the cognitive level in your loved one. Professionals sometimes use a system called Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) to create a more objective measure of the exact degree of functionality in your relative. This system incorporates 6 relevant factors: orientation, memory, problem solving, social skills in the community, and home activities such as hobbies. This test can sometimes help to diagnose individuals with a lower level of impairment, so that they can get the earliest possible treatment.
These are the scores you might see after an evaluation. Most conditions will be diagnosed at the level of mild impairment. Here is the grading scale for CDR scores:
- 0.0 – No Impairment – there is no problem in your loved one other than normal aging factors.
- 0.5 – Minimal Impairment – this indicates the very beginnings of Dementia. Your relative may have some difficulty solving problems or managing complex social skill, but they are still able to function normally.
- 1.0 – Mild Impairment – this indicates a more serious problem with orientation and day to day function. Your loved one will still be able to perform most tasks, but they may need reminders to stay focused.
- 2.0 – Moderate Impairment – your loved one may need assistance with daily tasks. He or she will have significant difficulty remembering information and may repeatedly question something you have already told them. Personality changes may become apparent and your relative may be more suspicious or argumentative than normal.
- 3.0 – Severe Impairment – this indicates your loved one will have difficulty functioning or interacting even with assistance. He or she may fail to recognize even old friends and family members. 24-hour supervision will be necessary to maintain hygiene needs and assure personal safety.
Helping Someone With Dementia
It’s important to take steps to help any relative diagnosed with progressing Dementia, even one who shows only minimal impairment. This diagnoses can be a considerable burden for both you and your loved one. Counseling may be needed to help everyone come to terms with the situation and find constructive ways to make the most out your last years together. In time, your relative will need to stop driving and give up on some of the independence he or she is accustomed to. It is important to discuss these changes beforehand and find ways to let the individual control their own life as long as possible, without endangering themselves or others. A professional mediator can often help to deal with these decisions in a more objective, non-judgmental way.
Treatment may also help with the physical symptoms of Dementia. Various medications are now available that can slow brain degeneration, as well as mitigate some of the specific symptoms like disorientation and vision loss. A registered dietitian (RD) can help to plan an optimal diet that is focused on vegetables, fish, and healthy fats, rather than red meat. This has also been shown to minimize the progression of the disease. Mental and physical exercise programs also slow down Dementia and can provide positive interaction. There is also new research on Dementia/Alzheimer’s which hopes to achieve positive results.
Home Care For Dementia
Home care for Alzheimer’s and Dementia is one of the best ways to combine all of these different treatment lines. This is especially true for elderly people who have stopped working and were recently diagnosed with progressing Dementia. Without a job, many elderly people do not have any regular structure to their lives and Dementia can make it even harder to schedule normal social activities. This isolation contributes to depression which will increase the degeneration of brain cells and further exacerbate the symptoms of Dementia. Home care agents can provide assistance with the essential activities of daily living (ADLs), social interaction, nutritional advice, and counseling. Visits can incorporate mental and physical exercise programs, or transportation to an outside activity. As the cognitive impairment worsens, visits can become more frequent and agents will offer assistance with personal care and medical services.
Caring Hands Matter is Ready to Support You!
If you know a loved one is suffering with Dementia, call Caring Hands Matter to discuss our Dementia home care services that could help. Starting this program as soon as possible will help your loved one become accustomed to the visits and can build relationships with ur bonded and insured caregivers. These home care professionals are specially trained to support to individuals who are managing any stage of Dementia.
Schedule a Free Home Care Evaluation Today
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of our Dementia home care services, call us directly or send us an online message to schedule a free home care evaluation. We will be able to offer objective advice about when to move your loved one to a higher level of care. You can take this opportunity to help a loved one with progressing Dementia make the most out of their final years.