Dementia and Alzheimer's - What I Need to Know By Bob Lowry
First, we better start with some basic definitions.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning. Dementia is a wide-ranging term that covers all sorts of problems so there is no accurate number of how many seniors have the symptoms. Though certain diseases can trigger dementia, it is usually an age-related development as brain cells are damaged.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia. Roughly 5 million of those 65 and older have Alzheimer, or roughly 10% of the senior population. Alzheimer's is responsible for more than half of all cases of dementia.
The early symptoms of dementia can be mild and easily overlooked. It can begin with some episodes of forgetfulness or losing track of time. I found an article with 10 early symptoms of dementia that you might want to review.
As dementia gets worse, signs of forgetfulness and confusion grow. Names, faces, and dates may become more difficult to recall. Personal care starts to suffer as folks forget to bathe or shower. Repetitious questioning and problems with decision-making become more obvious.
In the most advanced stage, dementia sufferers become unable to care for themselves or communicate with others. Sometimes depression or aggressive behavior surfaces. Loss of bowel and bladder control along with swallowing issues can arise.
The speed at which someone with diagnosed dementia progresses from mild to severe stages is variable. It depends on the reason for the dementia as well as the person's genetic makeup. Unfortunately, while some medications and lifestyle changes can help, there is no cure. Eventually, full time care will be required. It is important to plan for what may come well before faced with a dire situation.
Alzheimer's, a type of dementia, is particularly feared because of its slow but steady erasing of someone's personality and awareness. Spouses, one's own children, family, friends, places and events can be lost. Here is a link to 10 early warning signs of Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's organization has a powerful look at the extend of the disease and it's impact on us all.I had no idea that Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Research continues to narrow the hunt for a cure or something that will halt its progress, but for now the disease worsens over time. Some medications will slow its progress but there is no cure. Someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's has a life expectancy of 4-8 years.
There are steps anyone can take to help lower the odds of dementia and Alzheimer's but they are not guaranteed to prevent future problems. Even so, it can't hurt if you follow the advice to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat a low fat diet. The theory that stimulating your brain with learning new things helps is unproven at the moment, but might turn out to be important. In the meantime, it can't hurt.
The only solid advice is to recognize the warning signs and changes in your (or a loved one's) behavior. Tests are available to confirm the diagnosis. If dementia or Alzheimer's are confirmed, you and your family can begin to make plans and adjust lifestyles to maximize the quality of one's remaining years. Support groups for both the patient and caregivers can be quite beneficial.
Here is the link to a powerful story of dedication and love as a wife begins to lose herself to Alzheimer's: From diagnosis to the final stages. The power of human love is a force that cannot be denied. The video is unavailable unless you have CBS All Access, but the text is.
Dementia and Alzheimer's are scary. In a recent highly unscientific poll on this blog, 35% of the respondents said they worry a lot about these issues. 56% said they don't because we can't prevent them, nor can we cure them if we are affected. This the lack of control and a future of slowly diminishing capacity are unpleasant realities, so acceptance is the best route for this majority of people.
The best we can do if be on the lookout for signs of the condition and act to prepare ourselves and loved ones for what may lie ahead.