Aging Successfully And Dementia: Resilience
A key to aging successfully with dementia is developing resilience. At one level, its not so different from developing resilience in the face of a terminal diagnosis like cancer. But its harder. The cognitive ability you need to put your suffering into perspective is exactly what the disease takes away from you.
One thing that may help is early diagnosis. Some people prefer to deny cognitive issues and refuse to seek medical help early on. But in fact, early diagnosis allows you to make choices about how you want to age while youre still able to make these choices.
Getting a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimers, for example, allows you to plan for the future. You can work with loved ones to anticipate future living arrangements and assistance that are consistent with your desires.
You also can use the time to learn everything you can about your disease. How to forestall it, how to deal with its practical aspects. You can join a support group and meet others who help you appreciate that youre not alone. That you can confront this terrible disease with grace and dignity, even as its robbing you of those very same things.
Getting Help With Dementia And Alzheimer’s
There is no known cure for most types of dementia, but treating the set of symptoms can improve quality of life. Doctors can prescribe antipsychotics and medications for sleep changes, depression, and memory loss. People with dementia can also practice at-home remedies to boost overall brain health. Dieting and exercise can help, as with vitamin supplements and cutting back on smoking or drinking . Environmental factors like air pollution can also play a role, so avoiding these types of spaces can also help to mitigate the progression of dementia.
Some dementia cases can actually be reversed. If the dementia is caused by a curable disease or infection, then treating the source can lead to a return to normal cognitive functioning. The same can be said for dementia caused by problems with metabolism, endocrine, nutrition, medication, and other non-permanent issues.
Is There Treatment Available
At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, one group of drugs called cholinergeric drugs appears to be providing some temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs can also be prescribed for secondary symptoms such as restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia sleep better.
Community support is available for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. Dementia Australia provides support, information and counselling for people affected by dementia. Dementia Australia also aims to provide up-to-date information about drug treatments.
For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
For a range of books and videos contact our Library.
For advice, common sense approaches and practical strategies on the issues most commonly raised about dementia, read our Help Sheets.
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No Place For Dementia In The New Narrative
The new narrative of old age doesnt dwell on whether successful aging is possible in the face of dementia. It acknowledges that dementia poses enormous societal challenges going forward. But the focus remains on changing opinions about aging as a time when people become used-up, irrelevant, a drag on society.
The people advocating a new view of old age are right to keep the spotlight on people whore aging successfully. Their primary goal is to change long-held societal beliefs. They have to keep their message simple and straightforward.
But it means that others will be left to consider how dementia and successful aging can coexist.
What Are The Symptoms
Mixed dementia symptoms may vary, depending on the types of brain changes involved and the areas of the brain affected. In many cases, symptoms may be similar to those of Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia. In other cases, a persons symptoms may clearly indicate the existence of more than one type of dementia.
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Summary: So What Is It Dementia Or Alzheimers
Because most people with dementia have the Alzheimers type, doctors, researchers, and family members will often use the two terms interchangeably. If a doctor diagnoses your spouse with Alzheimers disease, you could say My spouse has dementia and/or My spouse has Alzheimers disease. Both of these statements would be correct because Alzheimers is a type of dementia.
However, if a doctor diagnosed your spouse with dementia with Lewy bodies, you would not call it Alzheimers disease. You might say, My spouse has dementia with Lewy bodies. It is a form of dementia similar to Alzheimers disease, but it affects the brain differently causing unique symptoms that are not typical of Alzheimers disease. Receiving a medical evaluation for dementia and gaining a proper diagnosis can help you and your family better understand the disease process and what to expect in the way of additional symptoms and behavior. Such knowledge can help you better prepare for the future and maximize quality of life.
Causes And Risk Factors
The cause depends on the type, but the exact causes of many forms of dementia are currently unclear.
Dementia is not an inevitable part of aging, but age is one of the main risk factors. In fact, up to 50% of people aged 85 years and older may have a type of dementia.
Also, in the United States, around 11.3% of people aged over 65 years currently have Alzheimers disease, according to the Alzheimers Association. This number rises to 34.6% in those aged 85 years and older. Symptoms tend to worsen with age.
It is possible to develop dementia at a younger age, but the condition is more common among older adults.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia
Early symptoms of dementia include :
- Forgetting recent events or information
- Repeating comments or questions over a very short period of time
- Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in usual spots
- Not knowing the date or time
- Having difficulty coming up with the right words
- Experiencing a change in mood, behavior or interests
Signs that dementia is getting worse include:
- Ability to remember and make decisions further declines
- Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult
- Daily complex tasks, such as brushing teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a tv remote, cooking, and paying bills become more challenging
- Rational thinking and behavior and ability to problem solve lessen
- Sleeping pattern change
- Anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness and/or depression increase
- More help with activities of daily living grooming, toileting, bathing, eating is needed
- Hallucinations may develop
The symptoms mentioned above are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of the brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.
What Are The Treatments For Dementia
There is no cure for most types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia. Treatments may help to maintain mental function longer, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow down the symptoms of disease. They may include:
- Medicines may temporarily improve memory and thinking or slow down their decline. They only work in some people. Other medicines can treat symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and muscle stiffness. Some of these medicines can cause strong side effects in people with dementia. It is important to talk to your health care provider about which medicines will be safe for you.
- Occupational therapy to help find ways to more easily do everyday activities
- Speech therapy to help with swallowing difficulties and trouble speaking loudly and clearly
- Mental health counseling to help people with dementia and their families learn how to manage difficult emotions and behaviors. It can also help them plan for the future.
- Music or art therapy to reduce anxiety and improve well-being
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Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease that worsens with time, and it mainly affects persons over the age of 65. There is currently no treatment available.
When proteins and fibers build up in your brain, they impede nerve signals and kill nerve cells. Memory loss may appear modest at first, but symptoms gradually worsen.
- Having difficulty recalling names, events, or conversations
- Concentration issues
- Changes in personality, such as a lack of concern for things you used to care about, suspicion of others, or hostility
- Mood swings
How To Understand The Difference And Why It Matters
by Kathleen Fifield, AARP, Updated June 15, 2020
Doctors usually rely on observation and ruling out other factors to diagnose Alzheimer’s.
En español | The terms dementia and Alzheimers have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. In the simplest terms, one is broader than the other. If the two were nesting dolls, Alzheimers would fit inside dementia, but not the other way around. While Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia , there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinsons dementia and frontotemporal dementia each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.
A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimers instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimers if youve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.
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How Does Mixed Dementia Develop
Research indicates that mixed dementia is often not recognised and diagnosed effectively, with the person diagnosed as having one type of dementia. As well as an inaccurate diagnosis, this can lead to the diagnosed person missing out on interventions that could be helpful for the unrecognised condition. The symptoms of mixed dementia can vary depending on the part of the brain affected. If the person has two types of dementia the symptoms can be more noticeable and appear to progress more rapidly.
What Medications Are Available To Treat Dementia
Drugs approved for the most common form of dementia, Alzheimers disease, are discussed below. These drugs are also used to treat people with some of the other forms of dementia.
- cholinesterase inhibitors
- NMDA receptor antagonist memantine
These two classes of drugs affect different chemical processes in the brain. Both classes have been shown to provide some benefit in improving or stabilizing memory function in some patients. Although none of these drugs appear to stop the progression of the underlying disease, they may slow it down.
If other medical conditions are causing dementia or co-exist with dementia, the appropriate drugs used to treat those specific conditions are prescribed.
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How Is Dementia Diagnosed
To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.
A review of a persons medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.
Where To Get Help
- Your local community health service
- Your local council
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care Tel. 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres Tel 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
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Other Rare Types Of Dementia
Other rare types of dementia that can be passed down through the family include Huntingtons disease and Familial Prion disease. These diseases have a 50/50 chance of being passed on because they are caused by a single faulty dominant gene.
This means that, if you inherit a healthy gene from one parent and a faulty gene from the other parent, the faulty one will always be the one that is used because its the dominant gene.
Dementia Caused By Huntingtons Disease
Huntingtons disease is an inherited degenerative brain disease that affects the mind and body. It usually appears between the ages of 30 and 50, and is characterised by intellectual decline and irregular involuntary movement of the limbs or facial muscles. Other symptoms include personality change, memory disturbance, slurred speech, impaired judgement and psychiatric problems.There is no treatment available to stop the progression of this disease, but medication can control movement disorders and psychiatric symptoms. Dementia occurs in the majority of people with Huntingtons disease.
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What To Do If Someone In Your Family Is Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s
Contact the Alzheimer’s Association . Find out about resources available to help you and your family. State and county agencies may also be able to help.
Plan for the future. This includes legally designating someone to make health care and financial decisions for the affected person when he or she can’t.
Investigate long-term care options. Nursing care is expensive, and finding a good place can take time. Start early.
Take care of physical health. People with dementia who live a healthy lifestyle tend to progress more slowly to the later stages.
Steer away from genetic testing. Even if you have the APOE Alzheimer’s risk gene, it usually doesn’t mean you will develop dementia later in life.
What Are The Different Types Of Dementia
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
- Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
- Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Progress
The rate of progression of the disease varies from person to person.
However, the disease does lead eventually to complete dependence and finally death, usually from another illness such as pneumonia. A person may live from three to twenty years with Alzheimer’s disease, with the average being seven to ten years.
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Alzheimers Disease And Vascular Dementia
This is the most common type of mixed dementia. The person affected has two different diseases in their brain that contribute to their dementia symptoms.
Understanding Alzheimers disease
Alzheimers disease is caused by a build-up of faulty proteins in and around brain cells particularly cells that help to form memories. Earlier stages of Alzheimers disease are strongly associated with memory problems, language difficulties, and becoming confused more easily.
The vascular part of mixed dementia is caused by problems with the supply of blood throughout the brain. Sometimes this can be caused by having a stroke or a series of mini-strokes. In other cases it can be due to a more gradual deterioration of small blood vessels over many years. Vascular disease prevents brain cells from getting enough oxygen and nutrients.
These are needed to function properly. The symptoms of vascular dementia depend on what part of the brain is affected. Generally, the condition tends to result in much slower processing of thoughts and information, difficulties with planning or problem-solving, and trouble concentrating for more than a short period.