Dementia... What is it?
Dementia is the overall term for different illnesses, which all have the loss of memory and cognitive skills in common.
Before getting the diagnosis of dementia, there are different signs that you should be aware of and pay attention to. Down below we’ve made a list of these signs so you’ll know what to look out for:
- Memory problems
- Communication and language issues
- Ability to pay attention and focus will decrease
- Judgment and reasoning will change
- Visual Perception may alter
"A lot of people, who will later be diagnosed with dementia, might early on experience problems with short-term memory"
These problems with short-term memory can for instance present in the form of not being able to keep track of your keys, wallet, purse, etc. You might even start to forget your appointments.
If you have any doubts or suspicions, you should always contact your doctor.
What then causes dementia?
Dementia is a disease that occurs in the brain. It is caused by damage to brain cells and unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to do to prevent it. However, if you stay healthy, physically and mentally, you can reduce your risks of getting some of the various types of dementia.
Because dementia is a very common disease, in fact, 1 in 3 Americans adults suffers from a type of dementia, it can be quite easy to misinterpret different signals from your body. You may think you are suffering from dementia, when in fact being forgetful can be caused by something else entirely. Being stressed, sometimes from vitamin deficiencies, can cause dementia-like symptoms, such as being forgetful. However, these conditions can be cured with the right treatment.
Dementia is a reality, what now?
Once you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed, preparing for dementia becomes much easier. It is a tricky illness and the speed at which it develops will differ from person to person. But knowing what is coming can make it easier to prepare for it. It will also make it easier for the people around you to be supportive and know how you want your disease handled.
Dementia is a scary label to have. Sometimes the fears of getting the diagnosis will tend to make most people do one of two things. One, the affected person will go in denial. The second is, they might try and prevent the disease.
Unfortunately, both of these two options leave little room for dealing with what is, and come to terms with the reality.
What are the different types of dementia?
As mentioned before, dementia is the overall term for a lot of different illnesses. Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the most known one. But there are more illnesses, which all fall under the category of dementia. There is Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia and more.
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a progressive brain disorder. The Lewy bodies (abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein) build up in areas of the brain that regulate behavior, cognition, and movement. This particular disease will affect the brain in the areas that affect thinking skills, such as memory and the ability to plan and process information. It will also affect the ability to understand visual information.
"As with Alzheimer’s disease people diagnosed with this types of dementia may experience fluctuations in attention or alertness"
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a type of dementia where the nerve cell is damaged. This is caused by the frontotemporal. This disease will affect the parts of the brain, which causes deterioration in behavior and personality, language disturbances, or alterations in muscle and motor functions.
Parkinson’s disease dementia is an impairment in thinking and reasoning. This type of dementia will eventually affect many people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
What if, instead of hiding from your diagnosis, you face dementia head on?
Even if you abide by all the different advice’s from doctors and scientists, you can never prevent dementia 100%. You can be as healthy as a horse and spend your senior years exercising, eating right, and keeping your brain active, but nothing will prevent dementia from happening. The best thing, to fight anything that comes your way, is to be prepared.
How can you then prepare for dementia?
Well, there are different ways you can improve your quality of life, even with dementia. One of these is teaching your hands to master different hobbies and skills.
When your brain starts to forget how to do things, your hands will remember. This is an excellent tip to have in mind. This way you can stay active with something you don’t need your brain to tell you how to do.
"Studies have shown that people who are engaged in activities are happier than people who are not"
Whenever something is an implicit activity, chances are your hands will remember better than your head. The more things are familiar to you, the more you can be happy doing them. Especially if that person suffers from dementia. As an added bonus, staying busy and happy might even slow the progress of the disease.
Next of kin, what will happen now?
What now? Your mom, dad, husband, wife, grandmother and so on, has been diagnosed with dementia. How do you proceed from here?
Dementia is a though disease to be a witness to. However, being prepared for what comes next can lessen the pain of being powerless. How do you then actually prepare?
Down below we have compiled a list of 5 different steps, which can all help you mentally prepare for the upcoming time:
- Understand dementia – By understanding what dementia is you also know what is coming your way.
- Consider yourself a care partner, not a giver – By thinking of yourself as a partner instead of a giver, you remember that the person you are helping is not impaired, but still present. Their skills and knowledge may come and go, but they are still able to engage with their surroundings. By dismissing someone, that person will typically shut down.
- Learn simple interaction techniques – eliminate background noise, maintain eye contact, speak in a slow calm manner, play soft music, look at photo albums together. Also, keep in mind the power of touch!
- Maintain social connections – explain dementia to your surrounds, try and eliminate the fear and let people know they can help.
- Consider support groups – meeting other people who are going through the same is invaluable.