When it's your mom or dad or your grandma or someone else you care about dementia can be a scary thing. What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's? How do you get it? How do you know if someone has it? Are there different types?
So let's just start at the beginning. Rather than thinking of dementia as a disease, think of it as a set of symptoms. Dementia can best be described as a group of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily living.
In other words, when you brain is unable to retrieve information you need ( such as how to use a toaster or who is that lady who is talking to me), it will affect how you function. When people think about dementia or Alzheimer's disease they often talk about losing memories.
But it is much more than just losing memories.
It is the loss of your ability to function in society as you always have. As such with dementia symptoms, behaviour, may change drastically. Someone who was a sweet and quiet person may become loud and obnoxious. The one who was the life of the party may withdraw into themselves. Noticing behavior changes may be the first step in realizing someone you care about may be having a problem.
A lot of people panic as they get older and begin to forget things.
They may have trouble recalling names or forget what they were supposed to pick up at the store. These are usually not signs of dementia but just part of the aging process. Short term memory loss can occur due to stress and an overloaded brain. It can occur as a side effect of certain medications.
So how do you know if it is dementia and is that the same as Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's Disease is one of the many types of dementia. There is also vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and a host of other types. Each will present with a different set of symptoms. If you are in the Houston or Clear Lake area you are lucky. The Alzheimer's Association Houston and Southeast Texas offers wonderful resources to help.
Dementia symptoms may include issues with
Ability to focus and pay attention
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Getting lost in ones own neighborhood
Constantly asking the same thing or telling the same story over and over again
Confusion with time or place
And more. See the Alzheimer's Association for more information
Dementia symptoms are usually progressive.
This means they will gradually get worse over time. However, don't expect that progression to be in a straight line. Someone with dementia may be fine today and very confused tomorrow and then fine again the next day. This can be quite confusing for family members who are trying to help.
Your Spouse May Help You Get By
In the beginning someone with dementia can function quite well. Those with a spouse often get by for a long time without anyone noticing. This is because the spouse will often compensate and help cover up and problems.
This can put a heavy burden on the spouse that is not afflicted. If the caretaker spouse passes away first, as they often do it is very had on the dementia patient. Suddenly their symptoms are out in the open for all to see.
Many Adult Children Are Caught Of Guard
So many adult children who thought mom and dad were doing just fine are surprised at how confused mom has become since dad passed away. The truth is, the problem was probably there all along. Dad was covering for mom. Now that he is gone the issues are out in the open. The stress of his death can also be partially responsible to intensifying the symptoms.
So What Can You Do?
The first step is to begin to gather information. Read, research and start talking with people in your area of town. Find a caregiver support group.
This calendar offers a list of caregiver support groups. A support group will help you to connect with others who are having the same challenges. As such you will be able to get information on doctors, services and resources to get the help you need.
Light Heart Memory Care is here to help your loved one with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. We would love to give you a tour of one of our homes. Visit our Clear Lake, Webster or Pearland Home.