How To Recognize Dementia In Dogs
It crept up very slowly. My 12-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever crossed over into her twilight years and gradually started to change. Everyone ages and dogs age in very similar ways to humans. Just like us they can also get dementia, with the signs developing slowly a lot of the time.
We first noticed the cataracts and hearing loss. We saw the slightly stiffer joints and tiredness. All par for the course. Aging is what it is after all, and this didnt necessarily mean our dog was showing signs of dementia!
But then there were some more strange aging symptoms which we should have recognized as signs of dementia in our dog. She initially struggled to sleep soundly throughout the night. She would then start walking around aimlessly.
But the most obvious change in her behavior was the whining. At random points of the day, she would whine for absolutely no reason at all.
We took her to the vet the next day and she was diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome , also known as dog dementia.
It is sad to realize that your dog is losing their faculties but the sooner you spot the issue, the better you can care for your dog as their condition develops.
Sleep For People Who Have Dementia With Lewy Bodies And Parkinsons Disease
The type of dementia you have can affect your sleep.
People who have dementia caused by Lewy body disease, such as Parkinsons disease or dementia with Lewy bodies are often sleepy by day but have very restless and disturbed nights. They can suffer from confusion, nightmares and hallucinations. Insomnia, sleep apnoea and restless legs are common symptoms.
A person affected with these types of dementia may often unknowingly act out their dreams by shouting and moving around in bed.
They can even cause injury to themselves and/or their sleeping partner. This is called rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder or RBD, and tends to happen from the earliest stages of the disease onwards.
This can be exhausting and often leaves the person feeling like they havent slept at all, so they are very tired and sleepy during the day.
It can be hard to stay awake during the day after a poor nights sleep but, if possible, its best to try to limit sleep during the day to small bursts or catnaps. Otherwise the persons body clock can become very confused and this makes sleeping well during the night even harder.
Dreaming Of A World Without Dementia: All You Need To Know About Sleep And Dementia
Although getting a good nights sleep can help us feel sharper and healthier, current research reveals that the links between sleep and dementia are complex. Less understood than other risk factors, were not yet certain whether dementia causes poor sleep, or whether poor sleep may contribute to the development of dementia.
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What Do Elderly People Think About Life And Death
As we get older, death seems to be nearer than when we are younger. In as much as anyone can die regardless of age, for an older person, it seems like it is more likely to happen, especially when dealing with different health conditions that the body does not handle as it used to in the younger years.
For older persons, death does not always spell sorrow and terror, as is the case with younger people. Many of the older people are contented with what the short-term future has for them. You may think that people may get anxious as they become older, but this is not the case. Older people do not have much sadness and anxiety, especially related to death. They are actually more positive about life and death.
As we grow older, our perspective shifts. This is when you realize that things are not as they always seem. Most people fear death because they feel that they will lose the things that they have been working so hard to get over the years. However, for older people, this attachment to things acquired is not really pronounced. This is how some of the fear of death actually melts away.
When you look around you and you realize that there are things that are a part of you that will outlive you actually help in a major way. This could be the legacy we have in children or gardens planted. There are yet others who place value on their country, their religion, or families that live on even after they are gone.
How Can Alzheimers Patients Get Better Sleep
Helping an individual with Alzheimers to sustain longer, deeper sleep can result in physical health gains and improvement of daytime symptoms that sleep loss causes, such as agitation and disorientation. In addition to treating any underlying sleep disorders that are contributing to disturbed sleep, practicing good sleep hygiene can help people with Alzheimers to sleep better. Sleep hygiene means cultivating healthy sleep habits and maintaining an environment that promotes quality sleep. Experiment with the following steps to improve sleep hygiene:
These approaches to sleep hygiene may be challenging to implement for some patients, but evidence suggests that such efforts can pay off. A study found that, compared to a control group, implementation of sleep hygiene practices, daily walks, and exposure to a lighting device resulted in a reduction in time awake at night and depression in Alzheimers patients and that these gains were sustained after six months.
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Tau: A Direct Driver Of Cognitive Decline
In the study, Dr. Grinberg and the team analyzed the brains of 13 deceased people who had Alzheimers disease, as well as those of seven deceased individuals who had not experienced clinical neurodegeneration. The researchers obtained these samples from UCSFs Neurodegenerative Disease Brain Bank.
The team found that, in comparison with healthy brains, those affected by Alzheimers disease had a high level of tau across three regions that are key to staying awake, namely the locus coeruleus, the lateral hypothalamic area, and the tuberomammillary nucleus. Not only this, but these regions had actually lost 75% of their neurons.
Its remarkable because its not just a single brain nucleus thats degenerating, but the whole wakefulness-promoting network, notes the studys lead author, Jun Oh.
Crucially, this means that the brain has no way to compensate because all of these functionally related cell types are being destroyed at the same time, Oh explains.
For further clarification, the researchers went on to conduct a postmortem analysis of brain samples from seven people who had progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal disease. These are two forms of dementia that are characterized specifically by the overaccumulation of tau protein.
In these samples, the scientists did not find the same loss of neurons in areas connected with states of wakefulness, which suggests that this destructive loss may only occur in Alzheimers disease.
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
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Managing Sleep Disorders In Lewy Body Dementia
Sleep problems may increase confusion and behavioral problems in people with LBD and add to a caregiver’s burden. A physician can order a sleep study to identify any underlying sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and REM sleep behavior disorder.
REM sleep behavior disorder, a common LBD symptom, involves acting out one’s dreams, leading to lost sleep and even injuries to individuals and their sleep partners. Clonazepam, a drug used to control seizures and relieve panic attacks, is often effective for the disorder at very low dosages. However, it can have side effects such as dizziness, unsteadiness, and problems with thinking. Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone used to treat insomnia, may also offer some benefit when taken alone or with clonazepam.
Excessive daytime sleepiness is also common in LBD. If it is severe, a sleep specialist may prescribe a stimulant to help the person stay awake during the day.
Some people with LBD have difficulty falling asleep. If trouble sleeping at night persists, a physician may recommend a prescription medication. It is important to note that treating insomnia and other sleep problems in people with LBD has not been extensively studied, and that treatments may worsen daytime sleepiness and should be used with caution. Sleep problems can also be addressed by avoiding lengthy naps, increasing daytime exercise, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate late in the day.
Poor Sleep As A Symptom Of Dementia
Some researchers have suggested that disrupted sleep is a very early symptom of dementia, that affects people years before noticeable problems with memory and thinking develop. If this is proven to be the case, then poor sleep could be used as a red flag for early diagnosis of dementia. We know that the diseases that cause dementia start to develop decades before the more noticeable symptoms start. So the earlier we diagnose these diseases, the better chance we have of intervening, treating them and potentially slowing their progression.
Poor sleep can affect our memory. So if someone with dementia has trouble sleeping, it can be hard to assess the extent to which their memory problems are directly linked to their condition or their poor sleep. Strategies to improve sleep quality may help some people with dementia to maintain better memory and thinking skills.
In the later stages of dementia, it is common for people to sleep more during the day. This is because as diseases like Alzheimers get worse, simple tasks such as eating or talking, can become very tiring for the body and brain. Additionally, some medications taken for the symptoms of dementia, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, can contribute to tiredness.
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Treatment And Care For Lewy Body Dementia
While LBD currently cannot be prevented or cured, some symptoms may respond to treatment for a period of time. An LBD treatment plan may involve medications, physical and other types of therapy, and counseling. A plan to make any home safety updates and identify any equipment can make everyday tasks easier.
A skilled care team often can suggest ways to improve quality of life for both people with LBD and their caregivers.
What Should I Do If A Person With Dementia Is Sleeping A Lot
If the person is in the later stages of dementia and they have gradually started sleeping more and more, it is likely to be due to the dementia progressing.
However, if the excessive sleeping has started more suddenly, or the person doesnt seem well in other ways, it may have another cause.
If this is the case you should speak to the GP, to rule out any infections or conditions that could be affecting the person’s sleep.
It may also be worth asking for a medication review with the GP or speaking to a pharmacist as medication can cause a range of side effects.
If the person is sleeping a lot but it isnt having a negative impact on them it is often best to just go with it and make sure they are comfortable.
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Sign #: Increased Anxiety And Changes In Activity Or Appetite
As mentioned, doggie dementia may cause increases or decreases in activity. Increased activity usually presents as pacing or restless nights. On the other hand, dog parents may easily mistake decreased activity during the day as age-related slowing down. Dementia patients commonly want to sleep more during the day or may not be as excited to play as they used to be.
Activity may also change because anxiety can become worse once dementia sets in. Sometimes, dogs can sense the changes happening. They are scared and confused because they dont remember how to follow commands or they keep getting lost around the house.
In addition to confusion-anxiety, some senior dogs with dementia may develop noise-based anxiety. This may include reacting to fireworks, thunder, or even small noises like car alarms or the stove beeping. Another common sign some owners notice is that their four-legged friend is more attached to them. This can be a result of separation anxiety.
Since activity can decrease and anxiety can increase, another sign is decreased eating and drinking. This may occur because dogs feel too tired or confused to get up and go to the bowl. They also could forget where the bowl is located or forget that they were hungry or thirsty.
Can You Die From Dementia
Dementia is usually considered a disorder affecting memory and is associated with aging. In the initial stages, this could be true. Loss of memory is one of the earliest signs of the disease.
However, according to experts, dementia is a fatal brain failure that needs to be taken seriously like other terminal diseases that kill a patient slowly. It is not just an ailment that is associated with the elderly.
Even though the distinction is not really known in the medical field and to the general public, it is something that needs to be considered when one has to be treated at the very end stage of the condition.
It is believed that the fact that people are misinformed and misguided about dementia, the end stage treatment is usually made very aggressive.
The disease progresses quite slowly and the fact that it affects so many people means that it should be taken seriously. Dementia is a collection or a consequence of different diseases like Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinsons disease. In later stages, you can tell the type of dementia that is affecting a certain patient.
The patient can have eating problems, pneumonia, fever, pain, and difficulty breathing, which are all caused by the failure of the brain. In the end, dementia involves so many other parts of the body.
It is important to appreciate that the brain is the engine of our bodies. It controls everything, including metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, and even the heart.
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As A Care Worker How Can You Help
There are many conditions and circumstances where you may see signs and symptoms that may be confused with dementia. As a care worker, it is not your responsibility to try to diagnose the condition. However, as you may be the one person who sees the individual on a regular basis, you are well placed to notice any changes. Encouraging an older person to visit their GP on a regular basis can help them to maintain their general health and wellbeing.
Is It Safe For Alzheimers Patients Yo Take Sleep Aidswhat Should I Do If I Experience Side Effects
The routine use of medications to treat sleep issues in patients with Alzheimers disease is not supported by current scientific evidence. Sleep aids carry extra risks for people with Alzheimers they can cause falls and injury, increase memory loss and confusion, and may have an overly sedative effect. Sleep aids are typically reserved for cases where all other options have been exhausted and should only be given under guidance of a physician.
Melatonin supplements have been studied as a possible option for improving sleep quality in Alzheimers patients. However, research examining the effectiveness of melatonin supplements in people with dementia has produced conflicting results. Some studies demonstrated a small benefit, increasing nighttime sleep by around 30 minutes, while other studies showed no benefit. There is also evidence to suggest that melatonin supplements may increase social withdrawal and depression in patients with dementia.
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How To Tell If Youre Getting Healthy Sleep
Achieving restorative sleep requires a balance of duration, continuity and timing:
Sleep duration: For adults, ages 26-64, experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and then seven to eight hours for adults 65 years and older.
Sleep continuity: Since cycling through the stages of sleep into deep sleep and REM sleep are essential to our bodies ability to recover and develop, its critical that sleep be continuous and uninterrupted.
Sleep timing: Light and darkness regulate our circadian rhythm, causing chemical reactions in our bodies that either trigger us awake or promote sleep. Misalignment with circadian rhythms can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep and get enough sleep.
Individuals with a healthy sleep pattern will often wake up feeling refreshed and clear-headed, have lots of energy and experience a generally good mood. Meanwhile, if youre sleep deprived or your sleep quality is poor, you may struggle to wake up, feel irritable, depressed or anxious, struggle to focus or feel tired throughout the day.