Understanding Dementia and other memory-related conditions like Alzheimer’s is important to help us better deal with those suffering from these conditions as well as build a holistic world view that encompasses understanding and personal connection with those we share our world with. Our response to these issues can make a difference in business, career and personal settings.
Dementia is a syndrome that can be caused by several progressive disorders that affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday tasks. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but this is only one type of dementia.
They have not found the precise cause of Alzheimer’s but most specialist agree that some factors include advanced age, family history, cardiovascular disease or a history of head trauma. It’s important to understand that people going through this are not just forgetful. Their minds are working normally but the neural pathways that normally connect our thoughts to stored memory are blocked. As a result, memory is similar to being in a thick fog. They can’t remember anything that happened recently because the pathways don’t connect to where that information is stored. Since some long-term memories have had a much longer period of time to develop well-used pathways for access, these are less impacted by dementia. It’s also important to recognize that while it may be very sad for us when a loved one doesn’t recognize us, it doesn’t mean they are sad or in any kind of discomfort. In a great many cases they are quite happy in their little memory bubble, even in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.
Early Signs of dementia
Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is not a natural part of aging. Occasionally forgetting a name or misplacing the car keys is normal. But significant memory problems that disrupt daily life, such as getting lost on the way home from a familiar grocery store or developing an inability to keep track of bills, may be early symptoms of dementia.
Per Dr. Jane Potter from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, some early signs of dementia may include
- Difficulty remembering names and recent events
The Alzheimer’s Association has identified the following 5 signs of the Alzheimer’s disease.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
- Confusion with time or place.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
Different Stages of Dementia
We must realize that there are different stages that a person goes through with dementia. These are important to know so that as CAREGiver’s we know how to deal with the different stages. Also we can see what we can expect at each stage.
- Early Stage dementia
- Middle Stage dementia
- End Stage
Early Stage Dementia
- Repeating Questions or Comments without realizing it, often within the same conversation.
- Misplacing objects or storing them in an unusual spot
- Difficulty comprehending, retaining and recalling new information (yet memories from long ago are vivid and easily recalled)
- “Good” days where your loved one seems completely normal and “bad” days when his or her cognitive impairment seems more pronounced and interferes with daily life.
- Avoiding regular activities that have become more difficult to minimize embarrassment and frustration. Mood changes may accompany these frustrations.
Middle Stage Dementia
- Greater difficulty with social situations and communicating appropriately
- Decrease sense of time.
- Increased irritability due to frustrations from declining abilities.
- Withdraw from daily activities that have become too difficult to handle.
- More frequent and prolonged memory lapses
- Periods of disorientation, regardless of familiarity with environment
- Difficulty reasoning and making good judgments
- Changes in behavior that may include wandering, rummaging, delusions or hallucinations, expressions of anger aggression, or anxiety, shouting and disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
End Stage of Dementia
- Difficulty or complete inability to recognize familiar people, including close family members and even self
- A lot of time spent sleeping
- Nonsense speech including babbling or making strange noises
- Loss of motor skills and sense of touch
- Cognitive abilities like those of a 2 – 5 year old
It is so important to understand these stages. It helps you to understand what stage your family member is at and what you can expect from the next stage.
There are different kinds of dementia also which one needs to be aware of. If you want to do more research on this topic you can go to CaregiverStress.com where you’ll find more information on the different types and not only the different stages but what type of care needs to be provided for each stage.
The following information can be found on the Home Instead Senior Care site called CaregiverStress.com
Another great resource is the Alzheimer’s Society.