Dementia Doesn’t Always Mean Alzheimer’s
Dementia is any memory loss or thinking problem caused by changes in your brain. Alzheimer’s is just one type. Your memory also can be harmed by many other health issues, such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or a buildup of fluid on your brain.
If you notice symptoms that have you concerned, see a doctor right away. They’ll give you a thorough exam that may include taking a sample of your blood for testing, brain imaging, and neurological testing to figure out what’s going on with your health and get you help.
How Can I Help Someone With Long
If you notice your loved one displaying symptoms of long-term memory loss, get them to a doctor who can administer specific memory loss tests to confirm a diagnosis and treatment regimen as soon as possible.
Many disorders are sadly progressive, and cannot be cured. However, there are medications that can treat symptoms and keep quality of life as high as possible for as long as possible. Keeping your loved one mentally stimulated can also have positive effects on their memory capacity and quality of life.
Tips For Managing Memory Loss
- Have a place for everything. For example, hang keys on a hook by the door. Put things away where they belong.
- Have a routine. Set daily routines, such as bedtime tasks, in the same specific sequence every day.
- Post both daily activities and special events on a large calendar. Write things down.
- Keep a notebook of important information handy.
- Organize it into sections, such as appointments, phone numbers and medications. Put notes in prominent places and leave written directions on how to use common household items, such as phones and microwaves, next to those items.
- Use memory cues. Memory cues help you remember certain tasks or information. To make a memory cue, connect a task or piece of information to something meaningful, such as an image, familiar name or song. Keep it simple. Try not to tackle too many things at once.
- Break tasks down into easy steps. Could you repeat that, please? If you forget what someone said, ask them to repeat as often as necessary.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
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What Is The Treatment For Symptoms And Complications Of Dementia
Some symptoms and complications of dementia can be relieved by medical treatment, even if no treatment exists for the underlying cause of the dementia.
- Behavioral disorders may improve with individualized therapy aimed at identifying and changing specific problem behaviors.
- Mood swings and emotional outbursts may be treated with mood-stabilizing drugs.
- Agitation and psychosis may be treated with antipsychotic medication or, in some cases, anticonvulsants.
- Seizures usually require anticonvulsant medication.
- Sleeplessness can be treated by changing certain habits and, in some cases, by taking medication.
- Bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics.
- Dehydration and malnutrition may be treated with rehydration and supplements or with behavioral therapies.
- Aspiration, pressure sores, and injuries can be prevented with appropriate care.
The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
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What To Expect At Your Doctors Visit
The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your memory, including:
- How long have you or others noticed a problem with your memory?
- What kinds of things have been difficult to remember?
- Did the difficulty come on gradually or suddenly?
- Are you having trouble doing ordinary things?
The doctor also will want to know what medications youre taking, how youve been eating and sleeping, whether youve been depressed or stressed lately, and other questions about whats been happening in your life. Chances are the doctor will also ask you or your partner to keep track of your symptoms and check back in a few months. If your memory problem needs more evaluation, your doctor may send you to a neuropsychologist.
Take Care Of Yourself As Well
Memory loss can strain relationships and mental health for both the patient and their caregivers, so dont be afraid to seek outside help. You arent a superhero, and you dont have to do everything alone.
Experts in medicine, therapy, and caregiving can ensure that both you and your loved one are making the most of the time you have left together. And providing memory-loss patients with the highest quality of life is the best gift you can give them.
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Recent Or Upcoming Events
If someone cant remember something, such as a past conversation or visit you had, dont try and force them to remember, as this can leave them embarrassed and frustrated. For upcoming events, such as meal times or even when people are visiting, you can leave reminders on sticky notes in places where they regularly visit.
Setting a regular daily routine can also make it easier for them to remember what is going to be happening or what happens at certain times during the day.
Coping With A Loved Ones Memory Loss
Alzheimers patients experience a great deal of uncertainty, confusion, fear and frustration on a daily basis. So, too, do their family caregivers. Witnessing a loved ones slow cognitive decline is very painful.
It takes an emotional toll on the caregiver, explains Louise Kenny, LCSW. They grieve watching their loved one lose their memory.
After more than a decade as a bereavement counselor at Avow Hospice in Naples, Fla., Kenny left her job to care for her aging father. She advises her fellow caregivers to educate themselves as much as possible about the diseases their loved ones haveespecially dementiaso they will be prepared for whatever may lie ahead.
Really understanding the type of dementia your loved one is going through will make caregiving a bit easier, Kenny notes. If you can, keep that in the forefront. Realize that its not intentional and that there are physical and neurological reasons for their memory loss.
There are also some practical steps that family caregivers can take to better cope with the challenges and uncertainties that come with dementia care.
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Follow A Regular Routine
Without a doubt, patience is an essential quality for dementia caregivers. Kenny recommends setting a daily routine for seniors with Alzheimers because they tend to thrive on familiarity and consistency. However, a certain degree of flexibility is needed to address fluctuations in a loved ones mood and dementia symptoms.
Read:Why a Daily Routine is Helpful for People with Dementia
When Its Time To See A Doctor
If youre not sure if loss of memory warrants a doctor visit, consider:
- Does your memory loss disrupt daily activities?
- How often do the lapses occur?
- Whats being forgottendetails of a conversation, or the conversation in its entirety?
- Are there signs of confusion ?
- Is the memory loss getting worse?
If someone is having trouble remembering the day of the weeknot the date, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdaythats concerning, says Dr. Karlawish. Other concerning signs are repetitive questions: They get an answer, then several minutes later, they ask the same question. Or they repeat a story: something about a recent event, but then 20 minutes later, they tell you the same story.
Its not unusual for people to deny theyre having memory problems or to downplay the issue, but a prompt diagnosis is important.
Arrive at some reasonable, common understanding that you ought to get it looked into, says Dr. Karlawish. They dont have to agree on everything youve seen, and you dont have to make it a confrontation. Just get to the point where you can agree that Gee, it would be good to get this checked out. Then, the key is to go with them to the appointment.
You dont need to find a specialist for an initial consultation. Instead, look close to home.
Start with a doctor who knows you well, so a primary care physician, says Dr. Karlawish. Ideally, people go in with someone who knows them wella spouse, child or close friendwho can speak to what theyve been seeing.
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What Medications Treat Dementia Symptoms
Dementia treatment focuses on correcting all reversible factors and slowing irreversible factors. Some of the important drug treatment strategies in dementia are described. Except for the cholinesterase inhibitors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drug specifically for dementia. The drugs listed here are some of the most frequently prescribed from each class.
Slowing the progression of dementia
Dementia due to some conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can sometimes be slowed in the early-to-intermediate stages with medication. Many different types of medications have been or are being tried in dementia. The medications that have worked the best so far are the cholinesterase inhibitors.
Because depression is so common in people with dementia, treatment of depression can at least partially relieve symptoms.
- Depression is usually treated with any of a group of drugs known as antidepressants.
- The most important of these are the drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , for example, Fluoxetine , sertraline , paroxetine , citalopram .
- Stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate may sometimes be used to treat depression in people with dementia.
- Some of the medications that treat depression also help with anxiety.
Correcting drug doses and/or withdrawing misused drugs
How Is Dementia Treated
Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. For example, dementia that has developed due to vitamin deficiency can be treated with vitamin supplements and hence is reversible. Other causes of dementia such as depression, thyroid problems can also be treated.
For progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, no treatment can halt its progression, and research is still going on to find out the same. But, some medications may temporarily help relieve its symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. These are:
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What Are The Causes Of Dementia
Dementia is caused by damage to your brain. Dementia affects your brains nerve cells, which destroys your brains ability to communicate with its various areas. Dementia can also result from blocked blood flow to your brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. Without oxygen and nutrients, brain tissue dies.
Damage to your brain results in different symptoms, depending on the area of your brain affected. Some dementias arent reversible and will worsen over time. Other dementias are due to other medical conditions that also affect your brain. Another group of health issues can result in dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions are treatable, and the dementia symptoms are reversible.
All of the possible causes of dementia are discussed in the question, Are there different types of dementia?
How Common Is Dementia
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 5 million U.S. adults age 65 or older have Alzheimers and related dementia. By 2060, the CDC projects that about 14 million people will have dementia, which is about 3.3% of the population.
Alzheimers disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of death in Americans age 65 and older.
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Strategies To Improve Long
There are several ways you can improve your long-term memory. When trying to store new information in your long-term memory, it helps to repeat it several times and pay full attention. It also helps to attach meaning. For example, try to link new information with something you already know and understand. This is known as elaborative rehearsal.
Teaching information to others is another very effective way to get knowledge into your memory and remain there since it requires you to understand it and then express it well to someone else.
Using mnemonic strategies can also help improve your ability to learn and then later recall a memory.
Make Memory A Priority
Regardless of your age, mental exercise has an overall positive effect on your brain. One of the keys to aging well is to continually engage in new learning. Like a muscle the more you use your brain, the stronger it gets.
Whenever you learn something, new neural connections are created. On the other hand, when you stop learning, your brain starts fading. Cognitive performance can start to suffer when the internal connections in your brain begin to break apart.
Research shows that you can significantly improve your brain health in just 15 minutes a day. Try devoting 15 minutes a day to a new hobby or activity like painting or playing a musical instrument. Or, learn a new subject or language.
Einstein once said that people who spend 15 minutes a day learning something new will become an expert within a year, so select one of the above exercises and start improving your short- and long-term memory today!
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When To Contact A Doctor
A person should contact a doctor if memory problems interfere with their daily life or quality of life. Severe memory problems are not an inevitable part of aging. A doctor should assess people with more serious memory symptoms to determine the cause and prescribe treatment where appropriate.
People who have mild cognitive impairment should visit their doctor regularly to monitor changes in their cognition over time.
Stage : Age Associated Memory Impairment
This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:
- Forgetting where one has placed an object
- Forgetting names that were once very familiar
Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.
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Different Types Of Memory Problems
Older memories which have been recalled or spoken about more often are more firmly established than newer memories. This means that a person with dementia may forget recent events, but still be able to recall detailed memories from earlier life.
In the same way, people with dementia may still be able to remember things that they have repeated many times in their life, such as a route to school. This also includes skills that involved a lot of practice, like playing a musical instrument or driving.
People with dementia may also be able to remember more emotional events such as weddings or birthday parties. This is because memory also has an emotional aspect to it. This emotional memory is usually affected much later on in dementia.
This means that a person with dementia may remember how they feel about an event even if they have forgotten the details of it. For example, they may not remember where they went on holiday, or that a friend came to visit, but they may still feel happy about it after.
This emotional memory can be triggered by senses, such as hearing a certain piece of music or smelling a certain fragrance.
Listen to our helpsheet for a summary of the signs and symptoms of dementia.
Understanding The Difference Between Short Term And Long Term Memory Loss
Oct 25, 2018 | Our Blog |
Have you ever wondered why your loved one with dementia can remember something that happened to them decades ago in great detail but forgets what you said just moments ago? This is the difference between long term and short term memory loss and it is often seen in people who have dementia or Alzheimers.
Every single day your brain processes thousands of thoughts and experiences, some you will only recall for a matter of seconds or minutes, others your brain will file away for a number of days. Some memories will be ingrained for decades, or perhaps never leave you. This forms the basis of memory, and memories can be divided into short term or long term.
Short term memory
It is also called primary or active memory and refers to memories stored anything between 30 seconds to several days. These memories do not hang around very long, either they are not that important or they form part of your habitual day to day routine that does not need recording. Effectively they are booted from your brain to make space for new memories. Imagine how cluttered and full our minds would be if we tried to recall from a brain that remembered every minute fact or experience all the way from early childhood.
However, if you make a point of remembering a fact then this memory is transferred to the part of your brain where your long term memories are stored the frontal lobe.
Long term memory
How does this work if you have dementia or Alzheimers?
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