Many find Alzheimer’s and dementia scary and difficult to deal with.This is why it is important to gain a deeper understanding about these conditions. By knowing more about dementia, you will know more about what to expect, how to plan the care, and how to make it easy for the person with dementia.
Caring for people with dementia can be challenging. However, with proper knowledge and understanding about the condition, you can better care for a loved one with dementia. It may be tough, but it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It’s an opportunity for you to establish a deeper connection with your loved one.
Difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Learning about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is important for the person with dementia, as well as their families and caregivers.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are not one and the same. One can’t use them interchangeably since dementia is not a specific condition. Dementia is a broad term that refers to a wide range of conditions resulting in mental decline and other symptoms that affect one’s ability to perform daily activities.
One of the most common forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which develops in the brain way before symptoms start to show. Since these symptoms are mild, they don’t affect the normal daily activities of the person and can often develop unnoticed. Only when the symptoms start showing and become severe that it becomes “dementia.”
Other forms of dementia include Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia refers to a group of symptoms caused by different conditions or diseases that affect the brain. Since it is progressive, the symptoms start off as mild and get worse in time. Symptoms associated with dementia include:
- Memory loss and confusion
- Behavioral changes
- Difficulty with understanding and language
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to studies, in the United States, two out of three people with dementia are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
While Alzheimer’s is a physical illness, it affects the person’s cognitive function. Before symptoms even begin to show, Alzheimer’s could already be developing. During its early stage, the symptoms are mild and don’t yet affect the person’s everyday activities. At this stage, it is known as mild cognitive impairment since it is often not yet diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease considering that there may be other causes.
As the illness progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s starts to develop dementia. It is considered dementia when the damage to the brain is already noticeable and affects the person’s daily activities and functions. While technically it is called Alzheimer’s disease dementia, it is often just referred to simply as Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects memory. However, there are other forms of Alzheimer’s that first affect other parts of the brain, causing other sets of symptoms such as problems with vision. This is called “atypical Alzheimer’s”.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
There is no single cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Its development is also quite complex. It usually happens when amyloid and tau substances build up inside the brain. When these substances form tangles and plaques, it becomes difficult for the brain to connect and work properly.
While there is no single cause of Alzheimer’s, it likely develops due to different factors such as environment, lifestyle and genetics. Factors like family history, age and genetics can’t be changed, but other factors like lifestyle can be controlled and influenced.
As to cure, there is no available cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This does not, however, mean that it can’t be managed. There are available treatments that help slow down the progression of the illness and ease the symptoms temporarily.
What Causes Dementia?
The causes of dementia are difficult to pinpoint. However, according to research, dementia develops due to the presence of brain plaques. These are thick protein tangles that clump up the brain and make it harder for one’s brain to normally function. When these plaques accumulate, it becomes difficult for the brain to retain memories and send nerve signals. These brain plaques are commonly present among people with frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
All forms of dementia are progressive and show damage to nerve cells. For example, vascular dementia develops when there is decreased blood flow in the person’s brain. Huntington’s disease on the other hand gradually affects the neurons in the brain.
Stages of Dementia
Dementia has a total of seven stages. A comprehensive tool used by healthcare providers in assessing the stages of dementia among elderly patients is Global Deterioration Scale, or simply GDS. This tool or method allows health professionals and caregivers to monitor the progression of dementia and how quickly it progresses in elderly clients.
With these stages, one can develop a method of knowing which symptoms in every stage. This can help healthcare professionals, caregivers and families track and monitor the health status of the person with dementia.
The stages of dementia are as follows:
- No cognitive impairment
- Very mild cognitive decline
- Mild cognitive decline
- Moderate cognitive decline
- Moderately severe cognitive decline
- Severe cognitive decline
- Very severe cognitive decline
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
One of the most common tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Memory problems are also usually the first to show. However, there are other non-memory related symptoms of Alzheimer’s as well. These include decline in other aspects of cognition such as difficulty with spatial relationships, difficulty understanding visual images, problems with finding the right word, and having impaired judgment or reasoning.
In the early stages, these symptoms may not be obvious and may just be mild to moderate. However, as the illness progresses, the symptoms become more frequent and severe. The person will likely experience behavior changes and becomes more prone to confusion.
Alzheimer’s progresses in different stages: preclinical, early-stage or mild, moderate, and late-stage or severe. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically appear when the person is in their mid-60s or older. This common variety of Alzheimer’s is the late-onset variety. However, in some instances, people develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is when the disease develops before the person reaches the age of 65. Rarely, the disease may develop as early as 30 years old.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease
In diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, tests are conducted to assess the thinking skills, functional abilities and memory impairment of the person. In conducting these tests, doctors also consider other causes of memory and other cognitive impairment to rule them out.
The doctor, either a neurologist or a geriatrician, will also assess your other symptoms and review your medical history. They also interview family members to have a better assessment of your condition. The doctor will conduct a physical examination as well.
To diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, the doctor will evaluate and assess the following:
- Thinking and cognitive skills
- Memory impairment
- Personality and behavioral changes
- Degree of thinking and memory impairment
- Ability to perform daily tasks
- Symptoms and their possible causes
Home-Based Care for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Persons living with Alzheimer’s and dementia can benefit a lot from receiving care in the familiarity, security, and comfort of their homes. However, there are unique challenges that come with it as well. Hence, when navigating home-based care for persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia, careful planning must be made.
There are various things to consider, such as managing medication, establishing routines, providing assistance with activities of daily living, creating a friendly and safe environment, and so on. There are safety concerns that need to be addressed. Accessing community resources, seeking healthcare professional support and tapping into various support groups are essential. However, with help from a reliable home care provider, all these things become manageable.
Alzheimer’s and dementia care at home requires a holistic approach. It demands a comprehensive understanding of the illness, how it affects the person, and the unique needs of the individual. With proper care, support and planning, professional caregivers can attend to the various needs of the client and ensure their well-being and enhance their quality of life.
Dementia Support at Home
What does dementia and Alzheimer’s support at home include? It encompasses various aspects of the person’s life, such as creating a safe and dementia-friendly environment, providing personal care and emotional support, and establishing routines.
Caregivers provide various support such as the following:
- Home modification to make it safe and secure for the person with dementia.
- Memory aid implementation and other meaningful activities.
- Emotional support and companionship.
- Medication management.
- Assistance with activities of daily living.
- Personal care and support.
- Respite care for caregivers.
Wtih Alzheimer’s and dementia care and support at home, it becomes easier for clients to access community resources. Home care promotes safety and provides quality support, care and comfort in the familiarity of home, resulting an enhanced quality of life and well-being for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
How Families Can Cope with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s affects not only the person with the condition, but their families as well. Coping and dealing with Alzheimer’s can be challenging for the family members of the person with Alzheimer’s. However, with proper support system and approach, families can efficiently navigate the complexities of caring for a loved one with dementia.
Coping with Alzheimer’s starts with understanding the disease, its progression, and its effects on the individual’s daily life. With proper understanding, families can develop the best approach when it comes to providing quality care and support. This also requires patience, empathy and proper communication.
Once family members have a better understanding of the disease, they can then establish a routine and build an environment around it to provide a sense of comfort, security and stability to their loved one with Alzheimer’s. Families should also tap into various support groups and community resources and seek assistance from caregivers and other healthcare professionals.
Since caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be physically and emotionally demanding, you should take care of yourselves as well as a family unit. By maintaining open communication, having a better understanding of the disease, and seeking support from communities and professionals, families can face the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s with much ease.
Keeping dementia clients engaged in various activities can help stimulate their cognitive skills. Playing certain types of games can aid their memory and other cognitive functions. These games include:
- Board games
- Card games
- Dice games
- Video games
- Word puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
Promoting Safety for Wanderers
Persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia are prone to wandering. They may wander around, confused and disoriented, which can jeopardize their safety. However, there are tools and devices that you can utilize to promote safety for these so-called wanderers.
You can place visual cues and signs strategically at home to guide individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia and to alert caregivers to prevent them from wandering out. To provide extra safety, you can install door alarms and motion detectors to help alert caregivers when the Alzheimer’s client attempts to go outside the home during wandering episodes.
If the person is really prone to active wandering episodes, then you may consider having them wear GPS tracking watches for an additional layer of protection. GPS will enable family members and caregivers to track the individual who has wandered off. Since the location provided is in real-time, you can quickly locate your loved one and ensure their safety.
In utilizing tools and devices to promote safety for wanderers, it is important to consider the progression of the illness, the frequency of wandering events, the capabilities of the individual, and their specific needs. To get further guidance and support, you may seek help from healthcare professionals to provide safety measures in preventing and responding to wandering incidents.
Nose-Picking and Alzheimer’s
Is there really a link between nose picking and Alzheimer’s? There is no definite answer to this.
Research that suggests that there is a link between your nose-picking habits and risk for Alzheimer’s. The logic behind this research is that nose-picking can damage the internal tissues in the nose, making it easier for different species of bacteria to enter the brain. These can cause symptoms similar to that experienced by persons with Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is yet no definite proof to this as it requires further studies.
Caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia can be challenging. If you need professional support, contact Coast Family Home Care. We provide quality Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Central Coast California. Our team of caregivers will treat dementia clients with utmost care and support.