Tips For Dementia Care
Dementia can be challenging for both patients and caregivers but knowing what to expect can help ease the journey. Caregivers may not be able to anticipate the level of dementia on a daily basis, but they can be prepared to manage the varying symptoms of dementia as they progress.
The different stages of dementia require different degrees of caregiving. 2 With mild dementia, people may still be able to function independently, however, theyll experience memory lapses that affect daily life, such as forgetting words or where things are located.
People experiencing moderate dementia will likely need more assistance in their daily lives as it becomes harder for them to perform daily activities and self-care. They may hallucinate, get lost easily and forget where they are, and not remember what day of the week it is.
Someone with severe dementia will likely lose their ability to communicate and need full-time daily assistance with tasks such as eating and dressing. They may not remember their own name or the names of others. Physical activity and ability may be seriously impaired and they may be more susceptible to infections, such as pneumonia.
How To Test For Dementia
There is no single test that can determine a person is suffering from dementia. The doctor can diagnose different types of dementia such as Alzheimers based on their medical history.
This has to be done very carefully. In addition, the doctor may conduct laboratory tests, physical examinations, and changes in the way the patient thinks.
When all things are considered carefully, a doctor can be able to determine that a person is actually suffering from dementia with certainty. Determining the type of dementia can be hard, especially due to the fact that brain changes and symptoms that are associated with the different types of dementias sometimes overlap.
It is normal for the doctor to give a diagnosis of dementia without really specifying the type. In such a case, it is important for the patient to visit a specialist in this area like a psychologist or neurologist for a more specific diagnosis.
Can Dementia Suddenly Get Worse
The progression of dementia depends on the underlying disease. Some diseases have a rapid progression. Others progress more slowly. Any sudden change with either slow or rapid progression should be evaluated for another cause. In most cases, changes with dementia may seem like they came out of the blue when they actually may have been slowly developing in the background. The best way to prepare for changes and manage expectations is through information. Your doctor and medical team will be a valuable resource. There are a variety of educational resources that are also available through the Alzheimer’s Association.
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Are Early Signs Of Dementia Obvious
Changes in a person in the early stages of dementia can be so gradual they can often be mistaken for normal ageing. Because dementia affects people in different ways, symptoms may not always be obvious. In fact, failure to recognise early signs often leads to people not being diagnosed for several years.
So what to look for? Perhaps someone you care for is struggling to remember what they did yesterday and forgets the names of friends or everyday objects. They may have difficulty following conversations or TV programmes, repeat things over and over, or have problems thinking or reasoning. They may feel angry, anxious or depressed about memory loss or feel confused even in a familiar environment.
The healthtalk website presents a range of carers experiences of identifying the early signs of dementia. One carer put it this way.
The first stage is not recognisable I think, or certainly wasnt recognisable as far as I was concerned initially . I was certainly not understanding… the fact that my wife was at the beginning of a serious problem, a serious mental health problem. Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less likely to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia Symptoms
My dad seems to be tired all the time lately how do I know the difference between age-related changes and dementia symptoms?
Sleep disruption is common with regards to both age-related sleep patterns and signs of early onset dementia so it can be tricky to work out whats going on. But if you look out for accompanying symptoms specific to dementia you may be able to tell the difference. If you suspect it is more than just sleepiness make an appointment with your parents GP.For more information on how dementia symptoms can affect sleep please read our article on dementia and sleep.
What do I do if I think my mum or dad has dementia?
The GP should be the first point of call if you suspect your parent is suffering from signs of early onset dementia. ;If the doctor suspects your parent has dementia they will refer them to a memory clinic or specialist. For further details on the process please visit our guide on diagnosing dementia.
How does the dementia diagnosis process work?How are dementia symptoms treated?
Unfortunately, dementia cant be cured but it can be slowed down significantly, especially if diagnosed earlier on. For more details on drugs used, visit our guide on dementia treatment.
If The Diagnosis Is Dementia
Being diagnosed with dementia can come as a shock, but over time many people come to see it in a positive way. This is because the diagnosis gives them clarity about their symptoms and is the first step toward getting the help and support they need.
Receiving a diagnosis can help people with dementia, and their family and friends, to take control of their situation and plan for the future.
How Do You Score
TRUE. Dementia is an umbrella term used todescribe conditions in which various brain functions such as memory, thinking, language, planning and personality decline over time. There are many different kinds of dementia, but Alzheimers disease is by far the most common; between 60 percent and 80 percent of people with dementia are thought to have Alzheimers disease. The next most common form is vascular dementia, which occurs when brain cells are deprived of oxygen; it accounts for up to 20 percent of dementia cases. Sometimes Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia occur at the same time; this is referred to as mixed dementia. Other diseases and syndromes that are considered dementias include: frontotemporal dementia , Lewy Body dementia, Huntingtons disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinsons disease, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
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What Kind Of Doctor Tests For Dementia
A primary care doctor can perform a physical exam and find out more about your symptoms to determine what may be the cause. They will likely refer you to one or several specialists that can perform specific tests to diagnose dementia. Specialists may include neurologists, who specialize in the brain and nervous system; psychiatrists or psychologists, who specialize in mental health, mental functions, and memory; or geriatricians, who specialize in healthcare for older adults.
How To Recognize Early Dementia Symptoms
The Alzheimers Association identifies 10 early signs and symptoms of dementia;that can help Alzheimers experts and medical professionals diagnose dementia earlier:
Diagnosing Alzheimers;and related forms of dementia early;may allow someone experiencing the symptoms access to new drug trials,;giving them a broader treatment plan with more options. Additionally, an early diagnosis can help you and your family plan financially and legally for your future.
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Being Confused About Time Or Place
Dementia can make it hard to judge the passing of time. People may also forget where they are at any time.
They may find it hard to understand events in the future or the past and may struggle with dates.
Visual information can be challenging for a person with dementia. It can be hard to read, to judge distances, or work out the differences between colors.
Someone who usually drives or cycles may start to find these activities challenging.
A person with dementia may find it hard to engage in conversations.
They may forget what they are saying or what somebody else has said. It can be difficult to enter a conversation.
People may also find their spelling, punctuation, and grammar get worse.
Some peoples handwriting becomes more difficult to read.
A person with dementia may not be able to remember where they leave everyday objects, such as a remote control, important documents, cash, or their keys.
Misplacing possessions can be frustrating and may mean they accuse other people of stealing.
It can be hard for someone with dementia to understand what is fair and reasonable. This may mean they pay too much for things, or become easily sure about buying things they do not need.
Some people with dementia also pay less attention to keeping themselves clean and presentable.
What Do I Do If I Suspect My Parent Has Dementia
Caregivers who are worried about their aging parents cognitive health should ensure they make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will conduct or order a thorough physical and mental health evaluation to make a diagnosis. Your elderly parent will need to have a complete checkup, including bloodwork and urine tests to rule out other causes of cognitive decline. They will likely undergo a series of mental assessments as well to check their memory, problem solving skills, and math and language skills.
A complete medical exam for memory loss should review the persons medical history, including their use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, diet, past medical problems and general health. A correct diagnosis depends on accurate details, so in addition to talking with the patient, the doctor might ask a family member, caregiver or close friend for additional information.
Diagnostic imaging may be necessary as well. A computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain may help rule out some causes of changes in cognition. These pictures can also reveal abnormal changes in areas of the brain that can aid in making a diagnosis.
It is important to note that there is no single, definitive diagnostic test for dementia. Physicians like neurologists, geriatricians and psychiatrists typically use a combination of any of the above tests and assessments to diagnose dementia.
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Changes In Behaviour Judgement And Moods
Becoming quiet, withdrawn or restless or frustrated or angry can be early signs of dementia. Someone may develop repetitive behaviour for example, they ask the same question over and over again, do the same thing repeatedly or make multiple phone calls to the same person. They may become insecure and anxious or start hiding and losing items. They may withdraw from social activities or give up hobbies and interests they have enjoyed.
They may show poor judgement, for example putting summer clothes on in cold winter months, not knowing when a kettle is full or overfilling cups when making cold and hot drinks, putting a kettle on the hob or leaving a cooker on or tap running. Someone with dementia may become very emotional and experience rapid mood swings or become quieter and less emotional than usual.
Common Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Different types of dementia can affect people differently, and everyone will experience symptoms in their own way.
However, there are some common early symptoms that may appear some time before a diagnosis of dementia. These include:
- memory loss
- difficulty concentrating
- finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the;correct change when shopping
- struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
- being confused about time and place
- mood changes
These symptoms are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. It’s often;termed “mild cognitive impairment” as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.
You might not notice these symptoms;if you have them, and family and friends may not notice or take them seriously for some time. In some people, these symptoms will remain the same and not worsen. But some people with MCI;will go on to develop dementia.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. This is why it’s important to talk to a GP sooner rather than later if you’re worried about memory problems or other symptoms.
What Is The Clock Test For Dementia
The clock test is a non-verbal screening tool that may be used as part of the assessment for dementia, Alzheimers, and other neurological problems. The clock test screens for cognitive impairment. The individual being screened is asked to draw a clock with the hour and minute hands pointing to a specific time. Research has shown that six potential errors in the clock testthe wrong time, no hands, missing numbers, number substitutions, repetition, and refusalcould be indicative of dementia.
S For Prompting A Persons Memory
Some people with dementia appear to travel back in time, reliving memories from when they were younger. They might expect grown up children to be small again, or expect their parents to still be alive, or even revert back in their mind to previous marriages or relationships.
There are cues you can use to help the person with dementia make the connections between the past and the present. The following tips may help to do this:
- Put up photos around the house of important times you were together, such as weddings, birthdays, childrens parties
- Show the progression of time in these photos, so that they show a spouse or partner when young, but also throughout time and how they appear now
- Keep a photo album on display with the photos clearly marked with peoples names, the year and the event, following the progression from the past to the present day
- Wear clothes around the house that the person would associate with you; these could include a favourite item of clothing or styles from when you were both younger
- Wear aftershave or perfume that the person associates with you. If they have a favourite perfume or aftershave, encourage its use; often the sense of smell can evoke positive memories when words cannot
Symptoms In The Later Stages Of Dementia
As dementia progresses, memory loss and difficulties with communication often become severe. In the later stages, the person is likely to neglect their own health, and require constant care and attention.
The most common symptoms of advanced dementia include:
- memory problems people may not recognise close family and friends, or remember where they live or where they are
- communication problems; some people may eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. Using non-verbal means of communication, such as facial expressions, touch and gestures, can help
- mobility problems many people become less able to move about unaided. Some may eventually become unable to walk and require a wheelchair or be confined to bed
- behavioural problems; a significant;number of people will develop what are;known as “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia”. These;may include increased agitation, depressive symptoms, anxiety, wandering, aggression, or sometimes hallucinations
- bladder incontinence is common in the later stages of dementia, and some people will also experience bowel incontinence
- appetite and weight loss problems;are both;common in advanced dementia. Many;people have;trouble eating or swallowing, and this can lead to choking, chest infections and other problems. Alzheimer’s Society has a useful factsheet on eating and drinking
Rapid And Unexplained Mood Swings And/or Depression
This is different to: more typical age-related behaviours such as becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
Mood and personality changes can be associated with early signs of dementia. This could include becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious, and your parent may find themselves getting easily upset in places they feel unsure about.;;Some of the dementia symptoms NHS lists include:
- Increased anxiety
- Violent mood swings
For example, your parent may appear calm, then visibly upset, and then very angry in a matter of minutes. ;This is a significant sign of dementia anger and frustration specifically if its unprovoked.
Other physical signs include pacing, obsessing over minor details, agitation, fear, confusion, rage and feeling overwhelmed because theyre trying to make sense of a world thats now confusing to them.
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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.