#1 Dementia Is An Umbrella Term.
It isn’t a specific disease but rather a term that describes a wide range of symptoms. There are many different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is one of those types. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 60 to 80 % of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. Other common types of dementia include:
- Vascular Dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
- Mixed dementia.
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Frontal Temporal Dementia
Each type of dementia will present its own unique symptoms.
#2 It Is About Much More Than Memory Loss
When people hear the term dementia or Alzheimer’s, they often think about memory loss. But there is so much more to these diseases.
“Though she repeated herself a lot, my mother in law knew who everyone was and seemed to remember things pretty well. She would forget things from time to time but don’t we all? Nobody recognized there was a problem.
"Then things began to change. She started making poor judgment calls. I called her one day to discover that she had let a man into the house that she did not know. After speaking with this man, I discovered that he worked for Dish TV and said that Meredith (my MIL) had ordered their internet service. My MIL did not own a computer. Furthermore, the Meredith I knew would have never let a strange man into her home.” ~ Lillian
This is a common warning sign of vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is often caused by a stroke or a series of TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack). A TIA is often referred to as a mini-stroke.
Furthermore, someone with Lewy bodies will often have sleep disturbances and visual hallucinations in the beginning stages. And someone with Frontal Temporal Dementia will usually have behavior changes and difficulty with language.
#3 People With Dementia Can Hide It From Families For Years
“We had no idea she had dementia. She sounded fine on the phone and we thought everything was going okay. We live in California but call Mom and Dad at least once or twice a week. When we arrived at their home in Cypress, Texas we were shocked! There was little food in the refrigerator and a lot of that was spoiled. Most of their clothes were dirty and they seemed to be having trouble navigating through the day. It was also obvious that Dad was compensating for Mom’s cognitive problems. And he was exhausted. Looking back, I realized that Dad never let Mom talk on the phone much and when she did he was right there completing her sentences. He was trying to protect her” ~ Diana- daughter
When the family lives away it can be very easy to fool them. Especially in the beginning stages, someone with dementia can often sound just fine especially over the phone. When you talk to aging parents who live far away it is important to let them talk. And it is also important to listen to people who live close by that may have a different view of how your aging parents are doing.
“My brother in law would call his mom every week. He did 90% of the talking. She would say “that’s nice son. Good. Oh, I am so happy for you. He would ask how she was doing and of course, she would tell him she was just fine. Then he would tell me that Mom was just fine and I was crazy!” ~Deb
#4 All Doctors Are Not Trained To Recognize Dementia
You would think that in this day and age all doctors would be trained to recognize the signs of dementia. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you want to have someone evaluated and you are not sure their primary is the correct doctor contact the Alzheimer’s Association. They have a list of doctors in your area who are trained to test for and recognize the symptoms of different types of dementia. Most likely you will be referred to a neurologist.
“Pat tricked 3 doctors before we finally found a neurologist who was able to diagnose vascular dementia. She would ask if they were going to give her a test. When the doctor would say yes I could just see her mustering all her strength to pass that test. I called it “pulling up her big girl panties!”
~Kay Daughter in law
#5 Falls Are More Common In Someone With Dementia
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health- “People with cognitive impairment are at about 2 to 3 times higher risk of falling compared with cognitively intact elderly. Recent studies suggest that the divided attention markedly impairs the ability of patients with AD to regulate the gait. Falls are particularly common in Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) patients and may aid diagnosis, and the falls are associated with parkinsonism and other unclear factors.
#6 Dementia Is Linked To Other Diseases
- According to the Alzheimer’s Association here are a few studies you may want to consider.
- Higher cholesterol and higher LDL levels are associated with increased risk for cognitive dysfunction (Yaffe et al., 2002)
- Kaiser Permanente study – those with hypertension at mid-life had a 24% greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease (Whitmer et al., 2005)
- Type 2 diabetes is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment (Cukierman et al., 2005; Coker and Shumaker, 2003)
#7 Certain Medications Linked To Dementia
Recent studies have suggested a strong link between certain medications and an increased rate of dementia. Studies also suggest that some medications may simply cause dementia-like symptoms.
The medication that seems to be causing the biggest alarm are sleeping aids, and medications for depression, urinary incontinence, allergies, and asthma. However, before getting too excited it is important to note that the study showed a possible association, not proof that these drugs cause dementia.
It is enough to cause concern for many, however. Sarah has been caring for her mom with Alzheimer’s. She recently started taking something to help her sleep. Now after hearing there could be a connection Sarah says she will not be taking those drugs anymore.
#8 Can Dementia Be Reversed
While a true dementia diagnosis is irreversible, someone with dementia symptoms may not have the disease at all. One of the most common “reversible dementias” is medication induced dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the incidence of adverse drug reactions increases with age.
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in an elderly person can cause dementia symptoms. If the person already has dementia it can cause the symptoms to escalate. Common symptoms include increased agitation, mood changes and behavior and confusion. The person may or may not complain of frequent urination or burning pain with urination. This is often missed since the symptoms are not common for a UTI.
The Alzheimer’s Association further states “Metabolic/endocrine/nutritional/systemic disorders (e.g., hypothyroidism, B12 deficiency, and systemic infections) are additional causes of “reversible” dementias and can be diagnosed with routine laboratory tests. They also state that most of these conditions respond favorably to treatment.
#9 Music Can Be a Powerful Tool
"The brain that engages in music is changed by engaging in music." ~Dr. Michael Thaut
By now you have probably seen videos on YouTube and Facebook showing a dramatic transformation in Alzheimer’s Patients after listening to certain music. People who have not spoken or responded for months suddenly come alive, singing and smiling once more. While most people do not experience that dramatic of a change, there is a definite connection between music and dementia.
The same music does not work for everyone. One thing that has been discovered is that music someone listened to in their earlier years will often elicit a positive response.
“Pat loved Frank Sinatra and Big Band Music. When I would play it she would sway to the music and sometimes even sing along. Her good mood would often last for several hours.” ~ Kay
#10 People With Dementia Can Continue to Live In Their Own Home
The truth is with the right support system in place someone with dementia can easily live throughout their days in their own home. The key is to make sure you have the support you need.
Family caregivers, especially spouses often feel as if they should do all of the caregiving. But this is a huge mistake for so many different reasons.
- Families have usually not been trained to care for someone with dementia.
- Your relationship will be changed. You will no longer be able to be the spouse, daughter or son.
- Your history with this person may create conflicts as their disease progresses.
- Caregiving is hard work. It requires a 24/7 commitment for a family caregiver.
- What happens if you get sick? Or worse if you die before they do?
Bringing in paid caregivers to help just makes sense. In the beginning, you may just need a few hours a week. As time progresses you may need more help. With SYNERGY HomeCare you are able to hire help when you need it.
When Hurricane Harvey dumped 30 + inches of rain on Houston the families who already had caregivers on board were so grateful. Knowing that they had a competent caregiver to help backed by a reliable company gave them peace of mind. Some families were unable to get to a loved one dues to the floods.
While there may not be another disaster like Harvey there will be situations in life where families simply need an extra helping hand.