Take Care Of Yourself
Your help is really important to your loved one’s quality of life. But it’s a lot to take on. You’ll probably feel anxious, depressed, and even angry sometimes. A person with dementia often needs long hours of care and a lot of monitoring, which can make you feel exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s OK to feel this way. Many caregivers do.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Here are some tips to relieve your stress:
- Be realistic. Accept that you can’t do it all alone and that it’s OK to ask for help or say yes when someone offers. It’s also fine to say no.
- Don’t quit your job until your loved one has a definitive diagnosis and you’ve fully explored any employee benefits. This helps keep income flowing and relieves stress about lack of funds, at least temporarily. Talk to your boss about flex options, like telecommuting.
- Stay informed. Learn all you can about early-onset dementia and how it can affect your family’s life. You’ll be better prepared for future changes.
- Talk to others. Get support from family and close friends. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside. Sharing your emotions and journey can be helpful. Caregiver support groups are available and may be a safe place for you to discuss your feelings and unwind.
- Walk it off. Exercise is a great stress reliever. It will help you sleep better, think better, and have more energy.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease
No specific blood test or imaging test exists for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed when:
What other conditions should be screened for besides Alzheimer’s disease?
Ten other causes of dementia are:
The importance of comprehensive clinical evaluation
Frequently Misplacing Items And Not Being Able To Retrace Steps
Most people will lose items at some time, but they are usually able to locate them again by searching in logical locations and retracing their steps.
However, someone with Alzheimers disease may forget where they placed an item, especially if they put it in an unusual place. They may also be unable to retrace their steps to find the missing item. This can be distressing and may cause the person to believe that someone is stealing from them.
How To Spot Early Indicators That Your Loved One May Have Alzheimers Or Dementia
by Patrick J. Kiger, AARP, Updated September 27, 2021
En español | From age 50 on, its not unusual to have occasional trouble finding the right word or remembering where you put things.
But persistent difficulty with memory, cognition and ability to perform everyday tasks might be signs that something more serious is happening to a loved ones brain.
Dementia isnt actually a disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Its a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving and visual perception. It also can make it difficult for a person to control his or her emotions and lead to personality changes.
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the “2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report fromthe Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of cases, but a range of brain illnesses can lead to the condition .
Diseases that cause dementia
These conditions are the leading causes of dementia. Many patients have mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types, such as Alzheimers and vascular dementia.
Lewy body dementia. Abnormal protein deposits in the brain, called Lewy bodies, affect brain chemistry and lead to problems with behavior, mood, movement and thinking.
What Happens After A Diagnosis Of Younger Onset Dementia
A diagnosis of younger onset dementia can come as a shock. The person affected, and their family and friends may all feel angry or sad. They might not believe it. There can be a huge sense of loss. These feelings are normal.
But help and support is available, and it is better to get it earlier than later.
Younger people with dementia need to think about several issues.
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So How Can We Prevent Dementia
Many of the risks stem from a lack of stimulation physical, social and mental.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet low in sugar and saturated fats, devoid of smoking and high alcohol consumption can reduce the risks associated with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and depression. As can healthy sleeping patterns not too little or too much. A large study published in 2021 found people in their 50s and 60s who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get dementia later in life.
Some research also suggests dancing could be a powerful antidote to loss of brain function.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine involving 469 people over 75 found “dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia.” By stimulating both the mind and the body, dancing offers a two-pronged benefit: Along with engaging the brain, requiring memory, coordination and cognition, the physical activity of dancing can also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Problems With Vision And Spatial Awareness
Alzheimers disease can sometimes cause vision problems, making it difficult for people to judge distances between objects. The person may find it hard to distinguish contrast and colors or judge speed or distance.
These vision problems combined can affect the persons ability to drive.
Normal aging also affects eyesight, so it is essential to have regular checkups with an eye doctor.
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Before It’s Too Late Consider These Risk Factors
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s a general term used to describe the latest stage of a neurodegenerative disease when it is too late to reverse the changes.
Not all of the cognitive impairments that can lead to dementia will, however. Some can be reversed and, crucially, many can be prevented through changes in the way we lead our lives, says Marina Boccardi, dementia expert at the German Research Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases .
Along with nutrition, exercise and sleep, social and mental stimulation are key in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases, say experts
“If we miss the chance to cure reversable conditions, that’s when they could become dementia,” she told DW.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly what causes the neurological damages that can be precursors to dementia. But scientists have identified several factors that make your chances much more likely. The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention lists 12 main risks: Lower levels of education, hypertension, impaired hearing, smoking, obesity, depression, a lack of physical activity, diabetes and low social contact, as well as excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injuries and air pollution. Recent research has also highlighted a link between sexual assault and dementia.
At What Age Can You Test Someone For The Signs Of Dementia
There is no one particular age that someone must meet before they can be assessed for signs of dementia, although dementia is more common in people over 65. Early-onset dementia can begin in people who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Diagnosing dementia in its early stages is important as early treatment can slow the progression of symptoms and help to maintain mental functions.
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Problems Writing Or Speaking
The person may also have difficulty with words and communication. They may find it hard to follow or contribute to a conversation, or they may repeat themselves. They may also have difficulty writing down their thoughts.
The person may stop in the middle of a conversation, unable to figure out what to say next. They may also struggle to find the right word or label things incorrectly.
It is not uncommon for people to occasionally struggle to find the right word. Typically, they eventually remember it and do not experience the problem frequently.
Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government 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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Difficulty Completing Everyday Tasks
The person may have difficulty completing an otherwise familiar task. For example, they may find it hard to:
- get to a grocery store, restaurant, or place of employment
- follow the rules of a familiar game
- prepare a simple meal
Sometimes, people need help with new or unfamiliar things as they get older, such as the settings on a new phone. However, this does not necessarily indicate a problem.
Signs Of Dementia Seen 18 Years Before Diagnosis
From our Care and cure magazine – Autumn 2015, find out about very early signs of dementia.
Based on tests completed 13 to 18 years before the study ended, a lower score in a cognitive test was associated with an 85 per cent greater risk of future dementia.
This suggests that the development of Alzheimer’s disease may begin many years earlier than expected before symptoms are recognised.
‘Dementia often causes changes in the brain years before the symptoms become apparent. This study shows that there may be subtle indications of Alzheimer’s disease in thinking and memory as many as 18 years before a formal diagnosis could take place,’ says Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society.
‘This could mean there is a long window of opportunity for treatment in which we could one day halt or slow dementia.
‘Although these tests cannot accurately predict who will develop dementia, they could potentially be used to identify people at higher risk.’
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A Person With Dementia Doesnt Always Fit Into One Stage
Dementia affects each person in a unique way and changes different parts of the brain at different points in the disease progression.
Plus, different types of dementia tend to have different symptoms.
For example, someone with frontotemporal dementia may first show extreme behavior and personality changes. But someone with Alzheimers disease would first experience short-term memory loss and struggle with everyday tasks.
Researchers and doctors still dont know enough about how these diseases work to predict exactly what will happen.
Another common occurrence is for someone in the middle stages of dementia to suddenly have a clear moment, hour, or day and seem like theyre back to their pre-dementia abilities. They could be sharp for a little while and later, go back to having obvious cognitive impairment.
When this happens, some families may feel like their older adult is faking their symptoms or just isnt trying hard enough.
Its important to know that this isnt true, its truly the dementia thats causing their declining abilities as well as those strange moments of clarity theyre truly not doing it on purpose.
Until Now It Has Been Unclear How Some Forms Of Vascular Dementia Can Happen Years Before Atherosclerosis In The Brain
Heart disease can directly cause brain dysfunction early on which could lead to dementia and can treble the amount of beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up and triggers Alzheimer’s disease, scientists said.
The new research, published in eLife, has found that heart disease causes a breakdown of a key brain function which links brain activity and blood flow. This means the brain gets less blood for the same amount of activity.
This happens in patients with cardiac disease before the build-up of fat in the brain’s blood vessels and is a prelude to dementia. Until now, it has been unclear how some forms of vascular dementia can happen years before atherosclerosis in the brain.
The researchers also found that the combination of heart disease and a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s Disease trebles the amount of beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up and triggers the neurological ailment, and increases the levels of an inflammatory gene in the brain.
Early Warning Signs And Diagnosis
Alzheimers Disease can be caught in the early stageswhen the best treatments are availableby watching for telltale warning signs. If you recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment to see your physician right away. Brain imaging technology can diagnose Alzheimers early, improving the opportunities for symptom management.
The Combined Effect Of Multiple Genes
Why is the inheritance of late-onset Alzheimers so much less frequent than for early-onset? In part, the answer is that there is no single gene mutation that consistently causes late-onset Alzheimers in the autosomal dominant pattern characteristic of early-onset AD. Instead, the late-onset form seems to represent the combined effect of multiple genes, each of which increases the risk a little. The best known of these, the apolipoprotein E gene , provides information that the body needs to make a protein that plays a role in the transport of fats and cholesterol throughout the body. The Greek letter epsilon followed by a number is used to name the parts of ApoEs three versions: ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4. One ApoE gene copy is inherited from each parent, so any combination of two gene copies can be present. The 4 type has been linked with an increased risk for early or late onset AD, and people who have inherited two copies are at even greater risk. It is estimated that people with the two copies of the 4 gene are at 12 to 15 times the risk for AD compared to noncarriers.4 But inheriting one or even two ApoE 4 genes does not guarantee that AD will develop, nor does the absence of any 4 genes assure that AD will not develop. In African Americans, the relationship of ApoE genotype to AD inheritance risk is weaker than in European Ancestry populations.
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What Is Younger Onset Dementia
Younger onset dementia is used to describe any form of dementia that develops in people under the age of 65. Dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 50s, 40s and even in their 30s. It is sometimes called early onset dementia.
Younger onset dementia is similar to other types of dementia in many ways. The same problems generally occur, but the disease can have a different impact on a younger person because they are more likely to be employed full time, raising a family or financially responsible for a family.
Difficulties In Thinking Things Through And Planning
A person may get confused more easily and find it harder to plan, make complex decisions or solve problems.
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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.
Recognition And Coordination Difficulties
A person showing early signs of dementia may put everyday things in unusual places . They may have difficulty recognising familiar items such as a chair, soap, toothbrush, cutlery, kettle, coffee jar, cooker or fridge.
Signs of a loss of coordination skills can include struggling to undo or do up buttons, to tie or untie shoes and neckties, and to use a hair brush or razor. They may be more subtle, such as putting down a cup of tea too close to the edge of a table or having difficulties lifting a teapot or kettle or using a knife to cut vegetables or fruit.
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Planning For The Future
Planning early makes it easier for someone with younger onset dementia to manage their financial, legal and medical affairs now and in the future.
If you have been diagnosed with younger onset dementia, it is important to make important decisions while you still can and while you are legally competent to sign any documents.
Things to think about include:
- your living arrangements into the future
- who can have access to your financial accounts
- having joint signatures on all financial accounts
- arranging when and how you will access your finances
- talking to a financial adviser
- sorting out superannuation, health and income insurance
- writing or updating your will
If you have been diagnosed with dementia, its important to nominate a trusted person to manage your affairs in the future. You can do this through an Enduring Power of Attorney .
A financial EPA enables a nominated person to look after your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. A medical EPA covers only medical decisions. The laws regarding EPAs vary between states and territories, so it’s important to seek legal advice before the agreement is completed, or if you are moving interstate.
Some states also have medical guardianship . This allows someone to choose a person to make medical decisions for them. For more information on guardianship and administrators, visit the My Aged Care website.