One of the most common questions posed by seniors struggling with memory and cognitive related functions is “Do I have Dementia?” After all, you may be having symptoms of dementia, but it could just be related to nutrition or mental state. At the same time however, it could also be related to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia related problems can be incredibly frightening to deal with, especially until we develop further research into how to stop it.
The important thing is to not be frightened by the possibility of a dementia diagnosis. If you notice you senior is showing a mild slowing in thinking, or difficulty in remember names and faces, you should absolutely get you senior tested for dementia and find out what the extent of your senior’s cognitive impairments may be. Keep in mind, not all cognitive impairments are Alzheimer’s thankfully. Many can be due to something that is treatable or reversible. Even some forms of dementia can be reversible.
For example, vascular dementia from small strokes can be stabilized by stopping cigarette smoking, lowering cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure and controlling diabetes. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can also sometimes be treated. And some other forms of dementia such as Parkinson's disease, Lewy Body disease, Frontotemporal dementia, and Pick's disease will have treatment courses different from Alzheimer’s that might be helpful to know about.
First, here are some conditions that are related to cognitive decline that can actually be cured:
- urinary tract infection
- thyroid disease
- over-medication or side effects from even appropriate doses of certain medications
- some vitamin deficiencies
- abuse of alcohol
Benefits of Knowing a Dementia Diagnosis
One reason that you will want to know your diagnosis is that it’s important to be able to plan for the future with your spouse, children, and close friends. These people will need to know how you want to be treated when you can no longer guide them. A related reason is that financial planning needs to be done early, especially planning for long-term care.
There are a number of other reasons to get tested that are more individual. After all, worrying is worse than the finality of knowing sometimes. If your senior gets tested early, they will be able to have time to prepare friends and family to move through the journey. It can be helpful to assist your senior through this time because they may be struggling to understand the symptoms they are experiencing. They could be mentally incapable of recognizing his symptoms (known as anosognosia) or in psychological denial. If they are suffering from anosognosia they may be completely unable to grasp that they have a brain disease.
You go through changes all throughout your life -- career changes, social life changes, physical changes. While following these changes your brain takes them into account so that your perception of yourself adjusts. That scar on your body quickly became a part of who you are and it doesn’t even stand out anymore. However, damage to the frontal lobe can impair this ability which can lead to problems with your ability to take in and understand new information about yourself.
A lot of times, anosognosia is a side effect of another injury or illness involving the brain. Anosognosia can occur after acute brain injuries like stroke, traumatic brain injury and other conditions that damage the brain. Anosognosia occurs in 10 to 18 percent of stroke patients, 50 percent of schizophrenia patients, 40 percent of patients with bipolar disorder and 81 percent of Alzheimer’s patients have some form of anosognosia.
Communicating With a Senior That Has Dementia
Dementia can significantly impair word comprehension and basic recall for vocabulary words, making what would normally be everyday conversation an arduous process. The difficulty of this can cause friction between seniors and caregivers when it begins to impede on timeliness and expectations.
Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s Find the Right Words
There’s a fine line between asking for a senior to clarify something and overwhelming them with questions that confuse and frustrate them. So if they are struggling to describe what they need, you can start by asking one question at a time and making it specific. For example, what color is the item? Could you show me what you use it for? Where is it usually used?
How to Deal with False Accusations from Seniors with Alzheimer’s
According to occupational therapist and dementia expert Teepa Snow, confabulation can be a powerful trick on the mind, and people with dementia can even pass lie detector tests because they believe their story is true. In most scenarios your senior will be making a mistake, but you won’t be able to convince them they are wrong. In situations such as this, it is best to avoid confrontation and false accusations. You should start by empathizing with and validating your loved one’s feelings.
How to Deal with Insults and Inappropriate Comments from Seniors with Alzheimer’s
We all think inappropriate thoughts sometimes that we wouldn’t say out loud, but seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s may have significantly less impulse control. Dementia patients are infamous for outburst, including insults, obscenities, and even sexual comments among family and even in public. It can be difficult to be around someone like this because you may feel like they are unpredictable and indifferent to how they make you feel.
The correct way to respond in these situations is to not react in anger or to make a big deal of them. Instead, you should just acknowledge your loved one’s actions and if necessary, remove yourselves from the situation. For example, if you have an outburst at a restaurant you may want to both go for a walk around the building or a visit to the restroom. Another possibility is to carry around cards that say “Please excuse my loved one’s outbursts and unusual behavior. He/she has a condition that causes confusion and memory loss. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
If someone is experiencing dementia related symptoms, it is important to empathize and do your best to determine the cause and work with them. Recognizing the causes and possible solutions for dementia related symptoms can help you and your senior keep calm during an episode and to endure symptoms healthily. Are you looking into a senior living facility for your family member that will support their senior health? Landmark Senior Living is available today to take you and your loved one for a tour at one of our seven premier and affordable assisted living communities. Call now for more information!