How The Disease Affects The Brain
Physiologically, dementia and/or Alzheimers affects various parts of the brain, specifically, it affects the brain in such a way that people have a difficult time learning new information. This is why, for a long time into the disease, patients and/or loved ones can remember things that happened a long time ago. They can remember wedding dates, the war they fought in, where they went to high schoolbut they can’t remember the visit that they had with their daughter yesterday. This is because the disease affects certain parts of the brainthe temporal lobeswhich are responsible for helping us learn new things.
The reason theyre able to hold onto the memories that happened a long time ago is that those memories are represented throughout the brain. Long-term memories don’t require just one or two areas of the brainthey’re probably represented in multiple systemsso the disease has to be quite advanced before patients and/or loved ones start losing those memories.
In the brain of someone with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, there are actual holes in the brain that form. In an image of an Alzheimer’s brain, one can see where many of the brain cells have diedand it affects every area of the brain.
Forgetting Beliefs And Aspects Of Identity
As the persons dementia progresses, they may forget or misremember certain beliefs or aspects of their identity which have been important to them. This can include religious beliefs and practices, aspects of sexual orientation and gender identity, and dietary choices, such as being vegan.
Try to use what you know about the person and respect their preferences and beliefs as much as possible.
How you can help
- If the person has forgotten that they used to follow a particular diet, such as veganism, they may now want to eat certain foods that they did not used to eat. Changes to a persons diet can affect their digestion. If possible, speak to a dietician or to the persons GP before the person begins eating these foods. For more advice on this see Eating and drinking.
- If the person has forgotten aspects of their faith that used to be important to them, think of other aspects of worship they might still enjoy or respond to. For example, they may still enjoy religious music and songs, or take comfort in holding or wearing symbols of their faith.
- If a person with dementia who is LGBTQ+ has memory problems, they may forget important aspects of their sexual identity. Read our advice on supporting an LGBTQ+ person with dementia.
You can read more detailed information on this subject in our publication, Supporting a person with memory loss. or order a print copy.
You can also listen to our audio helpsheet below for a summary of our tips to help cope with memory loss:
Do Not Get Angry Or Upset
When looking after persons with dementia, practicing self-control is of utter importance. Learn how to breathe in and just relax without taking things personally or getting angry and upset. Remember that dementia patients do not act the way they do out of their own accord. It is the illness that makes them behave the way they do.
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Dementia: A Guide To Understanding Dementia For New Caregivers
Innovation is helping us live longer, more fulfilling lives. But, as we live longer, were also seeing rates of dementia climb.
If you know someone in your family with dementia, you have probably felt some of the ways it impacts your life and health. For many patients and caregivers, the fear of mental disability is greater than the fear of physical disability.
Meaningful Activities For Dementia Patients: 15 Ways To Keep Your Loved One Engaged
Are you searching for enjoyable, stimulating activities for your loved one who is suffering from dementia?
You want to do all you can to enhance their quality of life, bring them joy, and reduce harmful behaviors but where do you start?
If youre looking for ways to engage your loved one with dementia, youre in the right place.
Here, we will discuss a wide variety of therapeutic activities for dementia patients, so you can choose the activities that best meet your loved one’s needs.
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Dont Ask A Person With Short
A patient and/or loved one can construe even the simplest of conversation starters as a real question, but they honestly dont know the answer to it. This can be embarrassing and can send them back into a fogthey try their best to give an answer that makes sense to them and often produce immediate physical concerns: I’m having a lot of pain, for example. A caregiver and/or family member might ask, What did you have for breakfast? and the person with memory loss doesn’t remember at all. They might say earnestly, I haven’t had anything to eat for weeks, . So these are questions to avoid because it causes fear for the person, that they have failed. But there are things you can talk about
Involving Everyone In Reminiscence
Reminiscing can be a good way to make connections between people from different backgrounds or cultures or between staff and service users. When choosing topics or themes for reminiscence in groups, think about ways in which you can include people who may be in a minority, for example, someone who is a different religion or culture or someone who is lesbian or gay.
Remember that some people may find it hard to talk or may feel left out if certain topics are discussed. Sharing memories of raising children can spark lively discussion and can bring up some interesting comparisons about how different nationalities approach issues of discipline of children, for example. But people who have been unable to have children or have lost a child may find this a painful reminder of their loss. Knowing individual life stories will be important to ensure that you are aware of potentially difficult topics.
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Things To Say To Someone With Alzheimers
Seeing someone you care about experience Alzheimers or another type of dementia is painstakingly difficult. Knowing what to say to someone whos lost his or her memory can also be hard. However, how you approach conversations can have a significant impact on your loved one.
The most important tip for communication with someone living with Alzheimers is to meet them where they are, said Ruth Drew, director of Information and Support Services at the Alzheimers Association. In the early stage of the disease, a person is still able to have meaningful conversations, but may repeat stories, feel overwhelmed by excessive stimulation, or have difficulty finding the right word. Be patient and understand that their brain is not working in the way it once did.
As the disease progresses, communicating with that person may become even more challenging. However, if you recognize the changes and challenges that come with dementia, you will more easily be able to alter your conversations with that person to meet his or her needs.
This may require slowing down and making eye contact with the person as you speak, says Drew. Use short, simple sentences, ask one question at a time, and give the person time to process and respond before continuing the conversation. If you are kind, gentle and relaxed, everything will work better.
Read on for six helpful things to say to those with Alzheimers, and three topics and phrases experts recommend avoiding.
Computer Calendars: Outlook Calendar And Cortana
- The Outlook calendar and Cortana are Windows programs that have options for pop-up reminders for any of the events that you have added to your calendar, such as medical appointments or social engagements.
- For example: You have added to your calendar that you have a doctorâs appointment on June 29th. The pop-up reminder will remind you of this the day before your appointment and 15 minutes before the appointment.
- Similarly, many cellular phones have a calendar application in which you can add reminders for future appointments and social gatherings.
- For example: You can download the Cortana application and it will link automatically to the reminders that you have added on your computer.
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Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia
On this page
A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.
The Challenges And Rewards Of Alzheimers Care
Caring for a person with Alzheimers disease or dementia can often seem to be a series of grief experiences as you watch your loved ones memories disappear and skills erode. The person with dementia will change and behave in different, sometimes disturbing or upsetting ways. For both caregivers and their patients, these changes can produce an emotional wallop of confusion, frustration, and sadness.
As the disease advances through the different stages, your loved ones needs increase, your caregiving and financial responsibilities become more challenging, and the fatigue, stress, and isolation can become overwhelming. At the same time, the ability of your loved one to show appreciation for all your hard work only diminishes. Caregiving can literally seem like a thankless task.
For many, though, a caregivers journey includes not only huge challenges, but also many rich, life-affirming rewards.
Caregiving is a pure expression of love. Caring for a person with Alzheimers or dementia connects you on a deeper level. If you were already close, it can bring you closer. If you werent close before, it can help you resolve differences, find forgiveness, and build new, warmer memories with your family member.
Caregiving can teach younger family members the importance of caring, compassion, and acceptance. Caregiving for someone with dementia is such a selfless act. Despite the stress, demands, and heartache, it can bring out the best in us to serve as role models for our children.
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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.
Memory Boards To Use For Alzheimers Patients
You can also try a memory board if your elderly parent has Alzheimers or dementia. A memory board is a giant bulletin board, sort of like the social media platform Pinterest, but in real life. You fill the board with visual cues and memories. These can include photos of your seniors life as well as pop culture and historical events from their childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood before you were born.
Once you have made a memory board, take it to your senior and ask them if they remember anything. Hopefully, their face will light up as they see things that immediately bring back memories. A memory board can provide hours of reminiscing for your senior as they look at all the images, one by one.
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Keep Belongings In One Place
- Although this may not be an easy thing to do, making the effort of keeping your belongings in one place may save you time looking for them and may reduce confusion.
- For example, keep your most used cooking utensils in one drawer and put your reading glasses on your night table when you are done using them.
Cognitive Activities For Dementia Patients
#1: Play Games
Games come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, such as:
Shoots and Ladders
Just remember to keep your loved one’s ability in mind and have another game on hand just in case you need to change the plan.
#2: Work Puzzles
Like games, puzzles are a go-to when youre looking for activities for dementia patients.
Not only do puzzles help stimulate the brain, but they also provide social interactions that can help patients and caregivers create positive emotional connections.
In fact, a recent study found that the onset of accelerated memory decline among dementia patients who regularly worked crossword puzzles was delayed by nearly two and a half years compared to those who did not.
Puzzles appropriate for dementia patients include:
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May Lower Blood Pressure
The pathway to a healthier heart and blood pressure may begin with reminiscing. So says a book published in 2000, by Bruce Roberts and Howard Thorsheim, called I Remember When: Activity Ideas to Help People Reminisce.
In the book, the authors reported that seniors who spent time reminiscing had healthier hearts and a decrease in blood pressure. What a wonderful way to help keep your body healthy.
Caregiving In The Middle Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia
As your loved ones Alzheimers disease or dementia symptoms progress, theyll require more and more careand youll need more and more support as their caregiver. Your loved one will gradually experience more extensive memory loss, may become lost in familiar settings, no longer be able to drive, and fail to recognize friends and family. Their confusion and rambling speech can make communicating more of a challenge and they may experience disturbing mood and behavior changes along with sleep problems.
Youll need to take on more responsibilities as your loved one loses independence, provide more assistance with the activities of daily living, and find ways of coping with each new challenge. Balancing these tasks with your other responsibilities requires attention, planning, and lots of support.
Ask for help. You cannot do it all alone. Its important to reach out to other family members, friends, or volunteer organizations to help with the daily burden of caregiving. Schedule frequent breaks throughout the day to pursue your hobbies and interests and stay on top of your own health needs. This is not being neglectful or disloyal to your loved one. Caregivers who take regular time away not only provide better care, they also find more satisfaction in their caretaking roles.
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Helping Alzheimers Patients Bring Back Memories
Targeting recall processes could let people who are in the diseases early stages access what they currently cant remember
People of all ages have moments when it feels like were on the edge of recalling something but cant quite do itwhere we parked our car or left our phone, for example, or what name goes with that familiar face. Its extremely frustrating in the moment, but for most of us, we can usually remember if we try. For patients with Alzheimers, Huntingtons and many other dementia-causing diseases, however, memory loss is much more profound.
Given the steady rise in the numbers of Alzheimers patients, in particular, the research community and pharmaceutical companies agree that the development of treatment strategies is critical, now more than ever. Yet despite decades of research, we are still trying to understand why these patients cant rememberand trying to find some way we might be able to help.
But we may be closer to an answer.
Even if the library has the book, though, you still need several pieces of information to locate itwhat floor its on, what rack, what row on the rack. If you were missing some of that information, you wouldnt find it either. That corresponds to the second assumption about why people with Alzheimers cant remember. Although most research has focused on ways of improving memory storage in Alzheimers, this has not led to led to treatments capable of improving recall.
How To Choose The Most Appropriate Activities For A Loved One With Dementia
Selecting activities for a loved one with dementia is a very personal choice and should be based on your care recipients interests and abilities. With so many excellent ideas in this post and other sources, most caregivers will find a few activities that are meaningful and enjoyable for their loved one. When selecting your activities, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Choose the Right Time for Each Activity. When starting an activity with a loved one, make sure that they are not particularly anxious or preoccupied with other things. If the time is not right for an activity, its usually best to postpone it and switch gears to a less-stressful activity. When the time is right, choose a clutter-free area to avoid distractions. It may also be helpful to plan activities based on the time of day. For example, you can choose gentle and relaxing activities like listening to music in the evening hours before bed.
- Adapt Activities to Match Abilities. Its a good idea to check with your loved ones healthcare providers to ensure that a new activity or exercise is safe for your loved one. Also, start small and give the person time to make progress, which will make the effort more rewarding. Activities that involve creativity like art are especially useful, as you will have something to display and enjoy after finishing.
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