Coping With A Diagnosis
Being diagnosed with dementia is a life-changing experiencefor both you and your loved ones. It can turn your world upside down and leave you grappling with a host of conflicting emotions, from shock, anger, and grief to profound sadness and isolation.
While there is currently no cure for dementia, a diagnosis doesnt mean that your life is over. There are treatments available for the symptoms. There are also steps you can take to help slow the progression of the disease and delay the onset of more debilitating symptoms, enabling you to prolong your independence and live a rich and full life for longer.
An Early Signs Of Dementia And Alzheimers Checklist
Noticing potential signs of dementia or Alzheimers in a loved one can be stressful. It can help to write down what you see so that you can reference it later when talking to a health professional. Writing down what is normal for your loved one can also help you notice what might simply be normal signs of aging. Download our checklist so you can keep track of the changes see.
Support Groups And Counseling For Caregivers
Caring for a person with dementia can be very difficult. It affects every aspect of your life, including family relationships, work, financial status, social life, and physical and mental health. You may feel unable to cope with the demands of caring for a dependent, difficult relative. Besides the sadness of seeing the effects of your loved one’s disease, you may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, resentful, and angry. These feelings may, in turn, leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, and anxious. Depression in caregivers is not uncommon.
Different caregivers have different thresholds for tolerating these challenges. For many caregivers, just “venting” or talking about the frustrations of caregiving can be enormously helpful. Others need more but may feel uneasy about asking for the help they need. One thing is certain, though: If the caregiver is given no relief, he or she can burn out, develop his or her own mental and physical problems, and become unable to care for the person with dementia.
This is why support groups were invented. Support groups are groups of people who have lived through the same set of difficult experiences and want to help themselves and others by sharing coping strategies. Mental health professionals strongly recommend that family caregivers take part in support groups. Support groups serve a number of different purposes for a person living with the extreme stressof being a caregiver for a person with dementia.
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More Early Warning Signs Of Dementia
Its important for caregivers to know that dementia is not a normal part of aging.
Do you know the early signs of dementia and symptoms to watch for in the person you care for?
- Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
- Problems with language
- Disorientation of time and place
- Poor or decreased judgment
- Problems with abstract thinking, like recognizing what numbers mean
- Misplacing items around the house in unlikely places, such as the iron in the freezer
- Changes in mood or behaviour
- Changes in personality, like becoming confused or suspicious
- Loss of initiative
Difficulty Forming The Words To Speak
When people who used to be fluent and could speak smoothly stop being able to produce language that way, this may be a sign of dementia, says Rankin. Despite this symptom, patients are often crystal clear in other areas. They can run a business, manage their family, or draw beautifully, but they have increased difficulty actually forming the words to speak.
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Who Can Diagnose Dementia
Visiting a primary care doctor is often the first step for people who are experiencing changes in thinking, movement, or behavior. However, neurologists doctors who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system are often consulted to diagnose dementia. Geriatric psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and geriatricians may also be able to diagnose dementia. Your doctor can help you find a specialist.
If a specialist cannot be found in your community, contact the nearest medical school neurology department for a referral. A medical school hospital also may have a dementia clinic that provides expert evaluation. You can also visit the Alzheimers Disease Research Centers directory to see if there is an NIA-funded center near you. These centers can help with obtaining a diagnosis and medical management of conditions.
Withdrawing From Family And Friends
Sometimes friends and family members might notice you pulling away from them before you do.
Puckering said it can be common for people to have feelings of isolation during midlife.
She explained that if you find yourself consistently becoming more confrontational than usual, or regularly snapping at your family, you may want to see a doctor to rule out other conditions including menopause, a mood disorder such as depression, a thyroid condition or even a vitamin deficiency.
While there is currently no cure for the disease, some treatments can help boost these chemical messages, and ward of some of the symptoms.
But it is ultimately a progressive disease which means more symptoms appear and worsen over time.
In the early signs of disease signs might be subtle but there are other key signs you should look out for.
As the disease progresses a person might:
- lose common items including keys and glasses around the house
- struggle to find the word they are looking for in conversation
- forget recent conversations or events
- get lost in a familiar place, or while on a familiar journey
- forget important anniversaries, birthdays or appointments
Though memory problems are the most common, there are other signs a person may be struggling with dementia.
Other signs to watch for include people becoming depressed, irritable, withdrawn and disinterested in activities that they previously enjoyed.
This story originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.
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Problems Speaking Or Writing
In the early stages of dementia, it can be difficult for your loved one to follow conversations. You may observe your loved one stopping in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue.
They may also struggle to find the right words. We all forget words from time to time and eventually remember them. People with dementia often cannot retrieve the word even after trying many times. Your loved one may also begin to repeat sentences within a conversation or say the same thing repeatedly in a short period of time.
What You Might Notice: Youve called your dad up to let him know about your plans for Christmas. He sounds agreeable but as you are saying goodbye he says, When are the kids coming for Easter? I need to buy somesomebox wrapping.
How You Can Help: If you know what they are trying to say, dont correct. Just agree and calmly provide the needed word. If they repeat themselves, remember that they are not aware of it. Listen and then continue the conversation in a different direction.
Loss Of Daily Life Skills
A home that may not be as well kept as usual may be a sign that the person living there has dementia. They may lose the ability to do many of the things they normally do themselves, such as preparing meals, household chores and eating and drinking properly.
They may also struggle to maintain their personal hygiene and getting dressed. Deciding what to wear, how to put things on and in the right order may become increasingly difficult. Getting around the house without walking into furniture and other items may also be a problem.
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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.
What Is The Life Expectancy For A Person With Dementia
The outlook for most types of dementia is poor unless the cause is an early recognized reversible condition. Irreversible or untreated dementia usually continues to worsen over time. The condition usually progresses over years until the person’s death. Life expectancy after diagnosis averages about 8-10 years with a range from about 3-20 years.
Making decisions about end-of-life care is important.
- The earlier in the disease these issues are discussed, the more likely the person with dementia will be able to express his or her wishes about medical care at the end of life.
- The issues may be presented by your health care professional. If not, ask about them.
- These issues include use of aggressive interventions and hospital care, artificial feeding, and medical treatment for medical illnesses.
- These issues should be discussed by family members and decisions made about how to deal with them when the time comes.
- The decisions should be documented in the person’s medical records.
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What Are The 7 As Of Dementia
The Seven As are an easy way for caregivers to remember which areas of the brain can be affected by dementia. Each of these As represents damage to a particular part of the brain:
- Anosognosia the individual no longer realizes there is something wrong.
- Amnesia the individual suffers memory loss beginning with short-term and eventually long-term memories.
- Aphasia the individual experiences loss of language skills, including the ability to speak, understand, read or write.
- Agnosia the individual is unable to recognize things through the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
- the individual has difficulty with movement and activities involving coordination, like tying shoelaces, doing up zippers, and driving.
- Altered perceptions the individual suffers loss of depth perception, for example.
- Apathy the individual is unable to, or lacks interest in beginning activities, or staying involved in a conversation or task.
As a caregiver, keep in mind that a person with dementia may not experience all of the As. Dementia can affect several different areas of the brain, but not always at the same time.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Infographic
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Is Dementia A Mental Illness
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.
Symptoms Specific To Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and people with the condition typically also experience:
- periods of being alert or drowsy, or fluctuating levels of confusion
- visual hallucinations
- becoming slower in their physical movements
- repeated falls and fainting
Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.
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The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
Psychological Changes For Dementia Patients
- Changes in mood: Frequent mood swings, increased sensitivity to change, and increased anxiety and agitation.
- Personality changes: Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and sometimes completely changed personality and behaviors.
- Hallucinations or paranoia: In later stages of dementia, sufferers may believe that even close friends or family are dangerous or “out to get them”.
- Neglecting safety, personal hygiene, exercise, or nutrition. May display decreased judgement skills involving money, like careless purchases or giving away large sums of money.
- Socially inappropriate behavior: Making rude or explicit sexual comments publicly or to strangers.
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What Conditions Can Be Mistaken For Dementia
The term dementia refers to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Often, people who experience subtle short-term memory changes, are easily confused, or exhibit different behaviors or personality traits are mistakenly thought to have dementia. These symptoms could be the result of a variety of other conditions or disorders, including other neurocognitive disorders such as Parkinsons disease, brain growths or tumors, mild cognitive impairment , and mood disorders, like depression.
Normal Memory Changes Vs Dementia Symptoms
Its something we all have to face but the inevitable changes of aging can still be both humbling and surprising. But while experiencing wrinkling skin, fading hair color, and mild, short-term memory loss is common as we age, severe and rapid memory loss is definitely NOT a part of normal aging. In fact, many people are able to preserve their brainpower as they get older by staying mentally and physically active and making other healthy lifestyle choices.
Differentiating the signs of dementia from normal aging can help to either set your mind at rest or encourage you to begin taking steps to slow the progression of symptoms. In broad terms, normal memory changes associated with aging dont significantly interfere with your ability to function in your daily life. These may include:
Slower thinking and problem solving The speed of learning slows down short-term memory takes longer to function reaction time increases.
More distractedness. All of the interruptions make learning more difficult.
Slower recall A greater need for hints to jog the memory.
Distinguishing between normal memory loss and dementia symptoms is not an exact science but there are some clues to look for:
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Discussing Dementia Symptoms With Dr Alex Bailey
In a new episode of the Age Space Podcast, we talk to Dr Alex Bailey, an old age psychiatrist working in Westminster, sharing his thoughts and advice on dementia. This includes identifying the early signs of dementia, details of memory services, supporting those with dementia to live well, psychological therapies, supporting carers and much more. Listen to the dementia explained podcast.
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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy/brain Injury
Initial symptoms: Symptoms of brain injury include loss of consciousness, memory loss, personality and behavior changes, and slow, slurred speech.
Progression: While symptoms from a single concussion are often temporary and resolve with appropriate treatment, chronic traumatic encephalopathy typically develops over time from repeated head injuries and is generally not reversible. Later symptoms include poor decision-making ability, aggression, impaired motor function and inability to communicate effectively.
Prognosis: Life expectancy varies according to the severity of injuries.
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Difficulties Interpreting Visual Information & Losing Direction
When reading, making out colors and judging distances starts becoming problematic it can point out to dementia. It could start with things like forgetting what you just read and soon it spirals down to not being able to comprehend the meaning.
In fact, one of the offset symptoms is difficulty following storylines when reading a novel or watching a TV show.
Losing the sense of direction or spatial orientation are also other aspects that indicate the offset of dementia.
A person with dementia starts having issues recognizing familiar landmarks that affect their sense of direction.
It also means starting to get lost frequently and forgetting the directions to the places they regularly visit.
What Are Potentially Treatable Causes Of Dementia
The dementia in treatable conditions may be reversible or partially reversible, even if the underlying disease or damage is not. However, readers should note that if underlying brain damage is extensive or severe, these causes may be classified as irreversible by the individual’s physician.
There is no specific test for dementia. However, dementia may be diagnosed if at least two of the following core mental functions are significantly impaired, according to some researchers:
- Attentiveness/focus on a problem or subject
- Visual perception
In some people, the signs and symptoms of dementia are easily recognized in others, they can be very subtle. A careful and thorough evaluation is needed to identify their true cause.
An assessment of dementia symptoms should include a mental status evaluation. This evaluation uses various “pencil and paper,””talking,” and physical tests to identify brain dysfunction. A more thorough type of testing, performed by a psychologist, is called neuropsychologic testing.
Lab tests may be used to identify or rule out possible causes of dementia.
In some cases, imaging studies of the brain may be necessary to detect conditions such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, brain tumor, or infarction or bleeding in the brain.
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Are Dementia Senility And Alzheimer’s Disease The Same Things
- Dementia occurs most commonly in elderly people it used to be called senility and/or senile dementia, and was considered a normal part of aging. Affected people were labeled as demented. The term “senile dementia” is infrequently used in the current medical literature and has been replaced by the term “dementia.”
- “Senile dementia,””senility,” and “demented” are older outdated terms that incorrectly label people with memory loss, confusion and other symptoms as a normal part of aging.
- Dementia, as defined above, is a constellation of ongoing symptoms that are not part of normal aging that have a large number of different causes, for example, Alzheimer’s disease is the major cause of dementia in individuals but it is only one of many problems that can cause dementia.
Symptoms of dementia vary considerably by the individual and the underlying cause of the dementia. Most people affected by dementia have some of these symptoms. The symptoms may be very obvious, or they may be very subtle and go unrecognized for some time. The first sign of dementia is usually loss of short-term memory. The person repeats what he just said or forgets where she put an object just a few minutes ago. Other symptoms and signs are as follows:
Early dementia symptoms and signs