The Truth About Aging And Dementia
As we age, our brains change, but Alzheimers disease and related dementias are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, up to 40% of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed. It helps to understand whats normal and whats not when it comes to brain health.
Normal brain aging may mean slower processing speeds and more trouble multitasking, but routine memory, skills, and knowledge are stable and may even improve with age. Its normal to occasionally forget recent events such as where you put your keys or the name of the person you just met.
In the United States, 6.2 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimers disease, the most common type of dementia. People with dementia have symptoms of cognitive decline that interfere with daily lifeincluding disruptions in language, memory, attention, recognition, problem solving, and decision-making. Signs to watch for include:
Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias are not an inevitable part of aging. There are 7 ways to help maintain your brain health.
- Not being able to complete tasks without help.
- Trouble naming items or close family members.
- Forgetting the function of items.
- Repeating questions.
- Taking much longer to complete normal tasks.
- Misplacing items often.
- Being unable to retrace steps and getting lost.
Living With Dementia: Next Steps After A Diagnosis
A diagnosis of dementia can be a big shock for the person with the condition, and their family. It can be difficult to know what to do, what decisions need to be made, who to tell, what support is available and what happens next.
Dementia UK is the specialist dementia nurse charity. Our nurses, called Admiral Nurses, provide life-changing support for families affected by all forms of dementia. They help people with dementia stay independent for longer, and support the people caring for them. They have the time to listen and the knowledge to solve problems.
This series of leaflets has been written by Admiral Nurses to help you take back control when youre struggling and manage the future with confidence.
The Brain Is Our Control Centre
Everything we do is controlled by the brain. It generates the instructions that tell our body parts what to do, as well as facilitating our complex behaviours, such as personality and cognition .
When a person has dementia, neurons in various parts of their brain stop communicating properly, disconnect, and gradually die. We call this process neurodegeneration.
Dementia is caused by progressive neurodegenerative diseases. This means the disease starts in one part of our brain and spreads to other parts, affecting more and more functions in the body.
Certain causes of dementia will impact different parts of the brain, and the symptoms a person with dementia develops will depend on what part of their brain is affected.
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Reaching Out For Help
Unicity Healthcare is licensed as a Healthcare Service Firm by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs . As experts in the homecare field, we understand that no two clients are the same, and, as such, we develop an individualized service plan, incorporating all aspects of the persons life and family. The steps involved in this process is vital in creating the Unicity Homecareapproach, one that stresses personalization, dedication and quality care.
Unicity Healthcare provides non-medical and medical homecare services to our clients. Our services are customized and range from a few hours per day to 24/7 . Our licensed, trained and experienced Home Health Aides can assist you or your loved one with maintaining a daily routine, from bathing, eating, socializing, or simply going for a walk outside.
Our mission is to help our clients stay in their familiar surroundings, remain independent and live an active, healthy, and happy life. All our services are provided by licensed aides , and supervised by a Registered Nurse, who, in collaboration with the client and his/her family, develops a customized plan of care. We also keep our clients families updated regularly on the situation of their loved ones, and we provide guidance when necessary.
As Dementia Develops Interests May Change
Sometimes, carers can be surprised that the person with dementia suddenly takes an interest in something that they have never been interested in before.
One daughter found her mother watching snooker on television, despite her mother never being interested in any sports before. It seemed that the colours and sounds of the balls and the soothing voice of the presenter of the snooker enthralled her. This makes sense in terms of the development of her dementia as some sports events are particularly accessible to a person with less cognitive ability and limited concentration certainly easier than following a soap opera!
Some families might find it hard to adjust to these changes in the person they know so well. A man with dementia who becomes attached to a soft cuddly dog, for example, might seem very different to his wife or son yet the dog is undoubtedly providing a source of companionship and comfort and this should be supported. Carers might need to talk this over with care staff and need reassurance that these kinds of changes are a perfectly normal part of the illness.
Like many areas in dementia care, this is an example of where what we need to change is not the person, but our own attitudes.
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Type And Quality Of The Results
The search strategy yielded 2376 publications, of which 118 were selected for full-text review, with 81 studies finally included in this systematic review . The studies were analysed to identify informal caregivers perceptions about the positive and negative aspects of caregiving and the factors that contribute to those experiences . The characteristics of the included studies are presented in the . With regard to methods, 52 studies used focus groups other methods included interviews, questionnaires and mixed methods . A total of 3347 participants were included 82.1% were family caregivers. Qualitative methods to identify the experiences/perceptions of family caregivers were found in all studies a few studies also presented the views of patients with mild cognitive impairment, patients with dementia and former caregivers .
Main positive and negative aspects and related factors influencing caregivers role
Positive aspects and the expressed related factors of caregiving according to caregivers perceptions
Providing support for the relative and having made a difference to their familys life were considered to have positive effects on caregivers life and were a relief for caregivers, as they were able to fulfil their obligations as son/wife/daughter or others:
I think their individuality and their dignity is vital.
They have all got their own things .
Negative aspects and expressed related factors of caregiving according to caregivers perceptions
What Support Is Available For Me If I Care For Someone With Dementia
When youre caring for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and more able to cope with your caring role.
Caring for someone with dementia can lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger. Unlike with other conditions, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving you feeling very isolated.
Its important to acknowledge these feelings, and to remember that theres no right or wrong way to feel. If youre feeling anxious or depressed, or you’re struggling to cope, talk to your doctor who can let you know about the help and support available to you.
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The Alzheimers And Dementia Care Journey
Caring for someone with Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia can be a long, stressful, and intensely emotional journey. But youre not alone. In the United States, there are more than 16 million people caring for someone with dementia, and many millions more around the world. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimers or dementia, it is often your caregiving and support that makes the biggest difference to your loved ones quality of life. That is a remarkable gift.
However, caregiving can also become all-consuming. As your loved ones cognitive, physical, and functional abilities gradually diminish over time, its easy to become overwhelmed, disheartened, and neglect your own health and well-being. The burden of caregiving can put you at increased risk for significant health problems and many dementia caregivers experience depression, high levels of stress, or even burnout. And nearly all Alzheimers or dementia caregivers at some time experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. Seeking help and support along the way is not a luxury its a necessity.
Just as each individual with Alzheimers disease or dementia progresses differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary widely from person to person. However, there are strategies that can aid you as a caregiver and help make your caregiving journey as rewarding as it is challenging.
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Helping Families Help Their Loved Ones And Themselves
Loved ones with Alzheimers disease or other types of dementia require specialized care and support. Memory loss caused by Alzheimers disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesnt only affect the person who has it it affects the entire family. If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care thats needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. Its often difficult to be available to care for your loved ones health and well-being around the clock.
Unicity Healthcare specializes in Alzheimers and Dementia Care. In fact, many renowned healthcare providers and Elderly service providers in New Jersey call on our expertise when dealing with people with Alzheimers/Dementia.
Alzheimers being a progressive disease, it is essential care be supervised and adjusted at each level of Alzheimers disease: the early stage, the middle stage and the late stage. Our Senior Advisors make sure to guide you through the appropriate care alternatives during the progression of the disease.
Not only are our Care Managers dementia experts/practitioners, they have significant experience dealing with Alzheimers clients and their families. They know how to act, interact, provide care, engage, and redirect to provide a safe, happy, and failure-free environment.
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Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality
As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.
Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.
Why Do Family Caregivers Care
Family caregivers may be motivated to provide care for several reasons: a sense of love or reciprocity, spiritual fulfillment, a sense of duty, guilt, social pressures, or in rare instances, greed. Caregivers who are motivated by a sense of duty, guilt, or social and cultural norms are more likely to resent their role and suffer greater psychological distress than caregivers with more positive motivations. Caregivers who identify more beneficial components of their role experience less burden, better health and relationships, and greater social support.
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Environmental Causes Of Sleeping Problems In Dementia
The environment of the person with dementia can cause sleeping problems in a number of ways including:
- The bedroom may be too hot or too cold.
- Poor lighting may cause the person to become disoriented.
- The person may not be able to find the bathroom.
- Changes in the environment, such as moving to a new home or having to be hospitalised, can cause disorientation and confusion.
Things you can try include:
- Keep the environment as consistent as possible.
- Check whether the person is too hot or cold when they wake up, because dementia can affect the bodys internal thermostat.
- Provide adequate lighting if shadows, glare or poor lighting are contributing to agitation and hallucinations.
- Move the mirror in the bedroom if the person becomes confused when they do not recognise their own reflection or the reflection of others in the room.
- Install night-lights that might help cut down on confusion at night and may help the person to find the bathroom.
- Place a commode next to the bed if finding the bathroom is a problem.
- Make sure the bed and bedroom are comfortable and familiar, because familiar objects may help to orient the person.
- Avoid having daytime clothing in view at night, because this may make the person think it is time to get up.
- Make sure that the person is getting enough exercise try taking one or two walks each day.
Emotional Impact Of The Diagnosis
Being diagnosed with dementia can cause distress and a feeling of hopelessness but this does not need to be the case. Understanding why the person feels these emotions, and how to manage them, can make the difference between living as well as possible with the diagnosis, or letting dementia adversely affect everything.
How a person responds to the early signs of dementia and after a diagnosis can depend on a number of factors, including:
- the age of the person affected
- the strength of their existing family network and other relationships
- the effectiveness of communication within the family
- whether the person is in employment
- their finances
- their beliefs and fears about what will happen as dementia progresses
- their ability to handle the changes dementia can bring, and adapt their life to cope with this
- their past history of how they manage problems and distress
Some people may feel significant anxiety and/or depression, both before and after diagnosis. This may be expressed through withdrawal, low mood and despair or agitation, worry, panic, seeking constant reassurance or a combination of anxiety and depression .
There are a few reasons why someone in the early stages of dementia could be experiencing emotional distress. These include:
Coping with a diagnosis for the person and their family
After a diagnosis of dementia
Understanding one another
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Solutions To Communicate With Persons With Dementia
Coping with Speech Problems
Speak the LanguagePeople with dementia have been known to revert to their first language as they lose the ability to speak. If your loved one grew up speaking a different language, prepare to speak as much of it as you can.
Sing AlongPeople with dementia remember songs, because music and melodies are stored in a part of their brain unaffected by the disease. Singing, therefore, is a way to connect. Listening to favorite albums together can also be useful.
Minimize DistractionsTurn the radio or television off, and remove things from sight that are distracting. If possible, sit down face-to-face in a quiet, calm place.
The ApproachIf they dont see you coming, engaging someone with dementia can elicit anxiety or aggression. Approach from the front to allow time to process.
Announce YourselfIdentify yourself before starting a conversation, and refer to the person by name. This gets attention and awareness, and reminds your loved one who you are.
Talking to Someone with Dementia
Anticipate Mix-UpsAs soon as your loved one starts speaking, listen carefully and anticipate which words may be mixed up, so you can help find the right word without overcorrecting.
AnnunciateParticularly in the early stages, problems understanding can be helped by simply speaking slowly, with proper pronunciation and grammar.
One at a TimeBecause people with dementia have problems with multiple thoughts at once, focus on one idea or short story at a time.
Reduced Cognitive Abilities Combine With Environment And Interactions To Further Affect Behavior
Many people think that changed behavior is because of the persons disease or personality. They dont think that other factors may also be involved. They dont see behavior as a response to many internal and external factors. As a result, they dont change objects and interactions around the person with dementia in order to reduce behavior challenges.
Consider the physical environment around the person with dementia. This directly affects what the person can do. It determines how difficult each action is. For example, the person may not be able to find something if the room is cluttered or dimly-lit. Changes to the surroundings can make it easier for the person to do things and feel safe.
Persons with dementia are also affected by the interactions with others around them. Often family members expect the person with dementia to understand and remember instructions. They expect the person to continue doing their tasks just like they did before dementia. The person may get agitated or may withdraw because of these unrealistic expectations. Emotional responses and facial expressions of family members also affect the emotions and behavior of someone with dementia.
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Grief And Loss Experienced By Carers
Grief is an emotional response to loss. The loss could be the loss of a relationship, moving house, loss of good health, divorce or death. If someone close to us develops dementia, we are faced with the loss of the person we used to know and the loss of a relationship.
People caring for partners are also likely to experience grief at the loss of the future they had planned together. Grief is a very individual feeling and people will feel grief differently at different times.
How Can I Support Someone As Their Dementia Progresses
As a person’s dementia reaches its later stages, they become increasingly dependent on others for their care.
They may have severe memory loss and no longer recognise those close to them. They may lose weight , lose their ability to walk, become incontinent, and behave in unusual ways.
Not everyone will show all these signs, and some people may show them earlier on in the illness.
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