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Should You Tell Someone They Have Alzheimer’s

Is Dementia A Mental Illness

Should you remind someone they have dementia?

Dementia is a mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name to Major Neurocognitive Disorder, which is a mouthful. The change was made in order to provide a clearer description of the problem. Whats most important to know is that dementias can involve changes to emotions, behaviors, perceptions, and movements in addition to memory and thinking.

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.

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.

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Dont Answer Questions Of Patient/loved Ones Regarding Bad Memories

People with Alzheimer’s often ask difficult questions, mostly about people who have passed away years ago. Its not helpful to remind the patient and/or loved one that a person theyre asking about has passed away. Rather than avoid the subject, you can say, He/shes not here right now, but tell me about him/her. Often the person with memory loss is looking for the sensation and security that they would have if their loved one was around.

Caregivers and/or family members should be helping patients and/or loved ones comfortable, safe, and protected. Elderly women, for example, who have had children commonly ask, Where are my babies? This question will often come up at meal time, when feeding the children was an important part of motherhood. Find a way to soothe their concern. You could say, The babies are sleeping.

As stated earlier, trying to bring a person with Alzheimer’s the present-day reality is not effective. Caregivers and/or family members should adapt to the patient and/or loved ones reality. Its ok to go anywhere in any time period in order to communicate.

Therapeutic Fibbing Helps You Step Into Their Reality

most of my family had dementia i knew i should tell

An effective way to step into your older adults reality is to use therapeutic fibbing.

It means agreeing or saying things that are not true to avoid causing someone distress and to make them feel safe and comforted.

In many ways, this technique is similar to telling a friend that you love the thoughtful gift they gave you, even if you dont actually like it. Telling the absolute truth in that case doesnt change the situation and would only hurt your friends feelings.

Here are two examples that illustrate the difference between being completely truthful and using therapeutic fibbing.

While your specific situations will be different, the same principles of gently going along with their reality and finding a distraction will apply.

Example 1Being completely truthfulYour mom: School is over. My mommy is coming to pick me up now. I need to go outside to wait for her!

You: Youre 89 years old. You havent been to school in decades. And dont you remember that your mom died 25 years ago? You dont need to go outside because shes not coming to pick you up.

Your mom: What? What do you mean my mom is dead? No! She cant be dead!! I saw her this morning! She told me she would pick me up!!! I need to go outside to wait!!

Using therapeutic fibbingYour mom: School is over. My mommy is coming to pick me up now. I need to go outside to wait for her!

Your mom: Ok, Ill have a snack.

Being completely truthfulYour spouse: I need to go to work now. Im already late.

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Tip : Plan For The Future

While its not easy to think about, getting your finances in order and figuring out how you want your healthcare handled can give you a sense of power over your future. Talk with your loved ones and communicate your wishes. Discuss and document treatment and end-of-life preferences with your doctors and family members. Appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself.

Although these conversations may be difficult, making your wishes known can also be empowering. And by making important decisions early, youll avoid future medical, financial, and legal confusion.

‘do You Need Some Help With That Love’

Words like love, honey and dear can sometimes be patronising for people living with dementia. This is particularly true if this is not how they were referred to before having dementia. This is sometimes referred to as elderspeak and can cause older people to feel infantilised.

Try this instead:

Always remember the person behind the dementia, using their name as often as appropriate. This helps keep their dignity intact and aids concentration too.

Contact our Dementia Connect support line if you would like support from one of our advisers.

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What Is Dementia And What Causes It

Dementia is a syndrome that causes a person to develop difficulty and problems with their memory or their ability to think. Unlike the normal changes that happen in a persons memory and thinking over time, dementia affects someones ability to function in their daily life activities and their normal routine .There are different causes of dementia. These causes are typically underlying neurological conditions . One common cause of dementia is Alzheimers disease. Other causes include diseases that impact brain blood vessels. For example, strokes may cause what is commonly termed Vascular Dementia. Some causes include Lewy Body Disease and Parkinsons disease.

When You Tell Your Parent They Have Dementia Adjust Your Expectations

âShould we tell her she has dementia?â?

The days of quick-witted banter between you and your parent may have passed, so you will need to change your approach to this and future conversations. Focus and concentration will be the keywords of your interactions with a loved one from now on. And adjusting your strategy and expectations will help you get through the difficult moments and enjoy the good ones.

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How Long Do Dementia Patients Live After Diagnosis

Dementia symptoms typically progress slowly. People with dementia will progress from mild to severe dementia at varying speeds and may be diagnosed earlier or later in life. Some people with dementia may live for up to 20 years after their diagnosis, though according to the Alzheimers Association research shows that the average person lives for four to eight years after a diagnosis of dementia. Its important to point out that the diagnosis of dementia is often missed, delayed, or diagnosed when the illness is moderate or advanced. The impact of that variable may not be accurately reflected in the research regarding the years of life post-diagnosis.

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‘do You Recognise Me’

It can be distressing when somebody with dementia doesnt recognise you, but remember that the feeling is mutual. Asking the person if they know who you are can make them feel guilty if they don’t remember, or offended if they do.

Try this instead:

The way you greet somebody with dementia might change depending on the stage of their condition judge for yourself, but keep it friendly. A warm hello could suffice, or it may help to say your name.

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Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment

Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:

  • Getting lost easily
  • Noticeably poor performance at work
  • Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
  • Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
  • Losing or misplacing important objects
  • Difficulty concentrating

Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.

How To Talk To Someone You Think Has Signs Of Dementia

5 Kinds Of Dementia To Know About

Talking about memory loss, and the possibility of dementia, can be difficult. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried, or struggling to accept their condition.

Before starting a conversation with someone you’re concerned about, the Alzheimer’s Society suggests you ask yourself:

  • has the person noticed their symptoms?
  • do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
  • are they scared about what their symptoms could mean for their future?
  • do they think there will not be any point in seeking help?
  • are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?

When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and not threatening. Also, allow plenty of time so the conversation is not rushed.

The Alzheimer’s Society has more tips on how to talk to someone about memory problems.

If the person does not want to see a GP, many UK dementia charities offer support and advice from specialist nurses or advisers, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s Society’s national helpline: or email:

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Looking Down The Road As A Caregiver

As time goes on as an Alzheimers caregiver, find support for yourself. Especially if you are a team of one, consider additional caregivers to round out your team. Senior services agencies, your local Area Agency on Aging, and local private agencies are good options to check when looking for caregivers.

The Case Against Disclosure

The main arguments against disclosure centre on concern, mostly by relatives, that it would lead to depression, anxiety and possibly suicide .

Maguire et al suggest that this may be compounded by relatives reluctance to deal with the patients knowledge and grief. A clients daughter begged this papers author to stop the consultant disclosing a diagnosis of dementia to her mother, as the daughter would be the one dealing with the consequences and she felt she would not be able to cope. But Maguire et al found that people who were opposed to telling a family member wanted to be told if they had the condition. The reason they gave is that they had a right to know their diagnosis, and apparently saw no paradox in their views. Similarly, Holroyd et al found that more people would want to know the diagnosis if it were their own than felt a relative should be informed. Other arguments against disclosure included that it is of no benefit because there is no cure and that the person would forget anyway .

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Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia

We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.

  • Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
  • Get the personâs attention. Limit distractions and noiseâturn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep her focused. If she is seated, get down to her level and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved oneâs reply. If she is struggling for an answer, itâs okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.
  • How Accurate Is It

    Why your loved one doesn’t believe they have dementia- It’s NOT denial.

    This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by licensed healthcare professionals.

    Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help out of fear their concerns arent legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.

    If you think you or someone you care about may be experiencing symptoms of dementia or any other mental health condition, strongly recommends that you seek help from a mental health professional in order to receive a proper diagnosis and support. For those in crisis, we have compiled a list of resources where you may be able to find additional help at:

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    ‘i’ve Just Told You That’

    Having to answer the same question several times can be frustrating, but repetition will happen. There is little benefit to passing on your frustration to somebody with dementia, and saying Ive just told you that only reminds the person of their condition.

    Try this instead:

    Try to be polite and as patient as possible. It’s important for somebody with dementia to feel they’re being listened to and understood.

    What Have You Been Told About Your Illness

    Of the 30 participants, 20 reported that nobody had ever talked with them about their illness. Only 5 had had an opportunity to discuss it with their physicians. Sometimes the information was provided by nurses and friends but never by the family members. Only 1 participant said that she had been told her diagnosis. In 2 cases, the professionals attempted to reassure the patients and advised them to take prescribed medication. Three participants reported clearly untrue explanations allegedly given by their physicians: hearing impairment, angina pectoris, and bereavement had been suggested as responsible for their present conditions. Two participants declared that the content of the information they were given was insulting . Two participants either did not remember or could not understand what the informers had been trying to tell them.

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    Things For Carers To Think About Around Telling The Truth

    • Is there a message behind the question that indicates an emotion or unmet need, eg fear, loneliness or disorientation?
    • Is the person likely to understand what they are being told? Are there ways of making it easier for them to understand?
    • Would knowing the truth cause the person significant distress? If so, would the consequences of telling the truth outweigh the need?
    • Are there ways of telling the person the truth that would be less upsetting?
    • Are there some things that are essential to be honest about?
    • Will not telling the truth make things more difficult in the long run?
    • From your knowledge of the person, what do you think they would want?

    If A Loved One Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimers Or Dementia

    4 Things You Should Tell Someone With Dementia

    If someone close to you has been diagnosed with dementia, youll be dealing with a host of difficult emotions. You may be grieving for your loved one, especially if significant memory loss is already present. Its important to allow timefor yourself and your loved oneto come to terms with the news. Encourage your loved one to open up about what theyre feeling and make yourself available whenever theyre ready to talk.

    When talking to someone about their dementia diagnosis, dont resort to platitudes such as telling them to stay positive or comparing their situation to someone elses. Allow them to honestly express their emotions, even if its difficult to hear, or they become angry and upset. Remember, you dont have to provide answers, just a listening ear and a hug or a tender touch to let them know you care.

    Learn about dementia. Understanding what to expect will help you plan for care and transitions and recognize your loved ones capabilities throughout each stage of the disease. Despite its many challenges, caregiving for a loved one can also be a deeply rewarding experience.

    Involve your loved one in decision-making for as long as possible. In the early stages, support your loved ones independence and self-care, but be prepared for their cognitive and physical regression to ultimately require 24-hour care.

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    Persuade Him To Go To The Doctor

    Your loved one needs an assessment by a physician. Sometimes, other reversible conditions might be causing problems with cognition, such as normal pressure hydrocephalus or vitamin B12 deficiency. Thyroid problems or medication interactions can also affect memory and judgment. An evaluation and diagnosis are important so that proper treatment can be provided.

    You may find that your loved one is resisting going to the doctor. If this is the case, you can explain that it’s time for an annual check-up.

    If you’re not able to get your husband to agree to go the doctor, you could talk to your physician’s office ahead of time about your concerns and ask them to call your family member to schedule a doctor’s visit. Also, in some families, there’s one person who seems to be able to be more persuasive than the others if so, don’t hesitate to ask that person for assistance so that your loved one can get the assessment and care that he needs.

    There are also visiting physicians in some communities who will perform house calls to evaluate and treat their patients.


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