For many older adults and their loved ones, dementia is a daunting topic, often wrapped in fear and uncertainty. However, there's a growing body of research and information available to help guide and support individuals seeking the truth.
To help clear the misinformation, here are a few of the common myths about dementia and the facts behind the term.
Dementia is commonly called a disease, but it's actually a general term for combined impairments, such as memory loss and confusion, that cause difficulties in daily activities.
For example, memory loss, confusion and agitation are symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These symptoms are collectively referred to as dementia, but the cause is damage to brain cells triggered by Alzheimer's.
This is why the term dementia is used to describe several conditions that cause impairments, including Parkinson's, Lewy body and vascular disease.
Every neurodegenerative disorder has specific trademark symptoms used to identify it. These symptoms typically progress at different rates, making each dementia journey unique to the individual.
While Lewy body disease may cause visual hallucinations and movement problems, Parkinson's disease is often characterized by tremors and speech impediments. By knowing the differences, caregivers can help seniors prepare for and cope with the changes they experience over time, including improving the safety of their home environment.
Although learning more about the symptoms of dementia can feel overwhelming, it's vital caregivers remember it isn't a journey that has to be faced alone.
There are many doctors, therapists and care teams, such as Creve Coeur Memory Care staff members, specially trained to help individuals experiencing dementia not only cope but continue to thrive in life.
Although normal symptoms of aging include occasional bouts of forgetfulness or confusion, dementia itself isn't the norm.
The majority of seniors typically retain most of the memories, knowledge and abilities they've accumulated over their lifetime. Sometimes misplacing car keys or struggling to remember the name of a seldom-seen acquaintance happens to anyone, regardless of their advancing age, and usually isn't cause for alarm.
Seniors and their caregivers should talk openly with each other and their medical team about any memory problems or issues that occur. This information allows a senior's physician to establish a baseline and keep track of noticeable changes over time.
While many diseases that cause dementia are irreversible, many conditions trigger dementia-like symptoms that can be treated. These include:
As adults age, their bodies may handle illnesses and deficiencies differently. While easily treatable with antibiotics, urinary tract infections can cause confusion, mood swings, difficulty focusing and even hallucinations, which may be interpreted as the early signs of Alzheimer's.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can cause confusion, and thyroid issues can lead to difficulty thinking clearly or learning new tasks. Drug interactions between prescriptions or between medicines and alcohol may also cause side effects that mimic dementia.
When caregivers notice any new symptom, it's important to talk with their loved one's medical provider. The doctor can run tests to identify the cause and provide treatment options moving forward.
Caregivers can also take preventive measures by talking with experts about nutrition, lifestyle and hydration tips to help seniors remain in optimal health.
Many of the causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, don't have proven treatments and cures. This can sometimes lead to seniors avoiding testing and possibly miss the benefits of early diagnosis because they dread the potential results.
However, talking with their doctors can help caregivers and seniors rule out false symptoms of dementia triggered by other health problems and identify the root cause.
By knowing the culprit behind the symptoms in question, caregivers and seniors can make informed decisions and access support, clinical studies and alternative treatments. This may help them to move forward and determine the best way to improve their quality of life while maximizing their time with family and friends.
As with any life-changing medical diagnosis, dementia can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and anger in seniors. This is a natural response, and while the diagnosis can be difficult to receive, it can lead to healthy emotional support by talking to friends, family and support groups with peers in similar situations.
Dementia progresses in stages. In the earliest stages, many seniors continue to live independently, working and enjoying hobbies without realizing their occasional memory lapses are dementia.
As the condition progresses, seniors begin having issues managing daily activities and remembering important information. They can, with assistance, continue to spend time with loved ones and participate in their favorite pastimes.
Even in the late stages of dementia, individuals still react positively to music, art and pet therapies. When communication becomes difficult, caregivers and seniors can still find new ways to share experiences through touch, laughter, smiles and gestures.
*Please don't remove this section it is working with 3 TalkFurther buttons on live url