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When Your Spouse Has Dementia

What Are The 7 Stages Of Dementia

Does your loved one with dementia resent you? Try this!

There are a few different ways doctors measure the progression of symptoms for Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

The most common measurement tool is referred to as the GDS, which stands for the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia.

It is also sometimes called the Reisberg Scale.

That tool refers to 7 different stages of dementia, which are as follows:

Stage : Age Associated Memory Impairment

This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:

  • Forgetting where one has placed an object
  • Forgetting names that were once very familiar

Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.

Scenario : The Person Plans Ahead And Has The Necessary Powers Of Attorney In Place

This is the best-case scenario when a person completes the necessary powers of attorney before dementia becomes an issue or if their doctor is able to certify that theyre still mentally competent.

Anderson says there are multiple benefits when advance planning is done, First, the person can make informed decisions about who they want to appoint as their agent to make health care or financial decisions for them if they are unable to do so.

Second, the person is able to assist in creating proper powers of attorney documents and decide whether the powers should be effective immediately or upon their incapacity.

Additionally, any of the documents may be amended or revised as long as the person is mentally competent.

Taking these measures often eliminates the need for a court-supervised conservatorship or a guardianship in the future.

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Spouse Has Dementia You’re At Risk Too

Study Shows Husbands and Wives Who Are Caregivers Have Higher Risk of Dementia

July 15, 2009 — A first-of-its-kind study suggests that spouses of people with dementia are at substantially increased risk of developing dementia themselves.

Researchers followed more than 1,200 couples for 10 years. They found that wives who cared for husbands with dementia were nearly four times more likely to develop dementia than wives of men who didn’t have dementia.

Husband caregivers were almost 12 times more likely to develop dementia than husbands of women who were cognitively healthy, says researcher Maria Norton, PhD, associate professor of gerontology at Utah State University, Logan.

Dementia isn’t contagious, of course. “But the amount of stress involved in caring for a spouse with dementia is tremendous,” and stress is a known risk factor for dementia, says Ralph Nixon, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist and Alzheimer’s disease expert at New York University and vice chairman of the Medical & Scientific Advisory Council at the Alzheimer’s Association.

People who are stressed out are also less likely to eat a healthy diet and exercise, both of which are critical to brain health, he tells WebMD. Nixon was not involved with the research.

The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Why are husband caregivers at so much greater risk of developing dementia than the wife caregivers?

Manage Stress Reduce Risk

BBC World Service

Norton says more research is needed to determine if certain elderly caregivers are more vulnerable than others and to identify interventions that may reduce the risk.

University of Washington professor of psychiatry Peter P. Vitaliano, PhD, agrees. Vitaliano has studied the physical and psychological impact of caring for chronically ill loved ones for many years.

He says study after study shows that spouse caregivers are more likely than noncaregivers to be depressed, socially isolated, and neglect their own health.

His own research suggests that the stress hormone cortisol plays a major role in dementia by increasing insulin levels. There is evidence that excess circulating insulin in the brain causes lesions similar to those believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is clear that depression and stress hormones affect memory and the brain,” Vitaliano tells WebMD. “Caregivers often report chronic stress, which means they are pumping out a lot of cortisol.”

His research also suggests that caregivers who manage stress with antidepressants, exercise, and a strong social network have better overall health.

“It amazes me that caregivers often think that denying their own needs makes them better caregivers,” Vitaliano says. “In reality, the complete opposite is true.”

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Cognitive Decline And The Impact On A Marriage

All people living with dementia will eventually exhibit combinations of three symptoms:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Functional decline , and
  • Neuropsychiatric disease symptoms

These symptoms can leave the healthy, unimpaired spouse at a loss with regard to communication issues and intimacy. While some spouses can cope with the monumental changes it brings to a marriage, many spouses cannot. Feelings of hopelessness, caregiver inadequacy, and embarrassment are often hallmarks of the caretaker spouse.

Caring for a spouse with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia can be exhausting. It is similar to watching a toddler the person cannot be reasoned with or left unattended. People with dementia can live for many years, and it is presenting a real challenge to care facilities as well as spouses. What would you do if your spouse of many years has Alzheimers, is in a nursing home and strikes up a romantic relationship with another resident? Would it change how you cared for them? Would it give you the freedom to go outside your marriage vows and begin a relationship with someone else?

Did We Cover All Your Questions About Taking Care Of A Husband With Dementia

In this post, we looked at the crucial steps of dealing with a spouse with dementia.Taking care of a husband with dementia or Alzheimers can be very challenging even for the most experienced caregiver. We looked at tips for self-care and strategies for making the most of your time together.

Taking care of a husband with dementia doesnt have to be sad and lonely. While its not the same experience you had together earlier in life, you can still do things together and enjoy one anothers company and minimize the confusion or anger that can sometimes accompany this condition.

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How Dementia Affects Sexual Behavior

Dementia can have a wide-ranging impact on a patients views, reactions and behavior when it comes to sex and intimacy. Their inhibitions may become lowered, causing them to say or do things that are uncharacteristically crude or vulgar. It can be very shocking and offensive to friends and family when a loved one with dementia stops adhering to societys expectations regarding good manners and appropriate sexual behavior.

Its one thing when a spouse with dementia acts out sexually around their partner, but they may also make unwanted advances or lewd comments to other family members, their professional caregivers and even strangers. It can be very challenging to bring a loved one with dementia on outings once they lose their filter, especially since the public is generally unaware of the various ways dementia can affect a persons behavior and impulse control.

Dementia Risk Higher If Your Spouse Has Dementia

Cope when Your Spouse Has Dementia

Fourfold Increase in Dementia Risk for Elderly Women Whose Husbands Have Dementia

May 5, 2010 — Older men living with wives who have dementia have an almost 12-fold increased risk for developing dementia themselves, a new study shows.

Elderly women in the study whose husbands developed dementia had a fourfold increase in dementia risk.

A strong body of research has linked caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease to depression, poorer overall health, and even earlier death.

The new study shows greater intellectual declines among the spouses of men and women with Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementias, study researcher Maria Norton, PhD, of Utah State University tells WebMD.

“The association was strong for both men and women, but the good news is that most people in the study did not develop dementia even when their spouse did,” she says.

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Companionship And Love Outside Of Marriage

Many spouses honor the commitment of until death do us part but acknowledge that a life of isolation is impractical for many reasons including damage to emotional and physical health. Spouses who agreed to be faithful until the end may find love. Who is to say if this is cheating?

What if the healthy spouse finds a companion outside of the marriageis that cheating if their spouse doesnt recognize them to be a spouse? Some spouses pursue love relationships outside of marriage and remain committed to caring for their spouse with Alzheimers or dementia at home or living in a community.

Some husbands and wives establish new relationships outside of marriage. In some situations, the new partner provides caregiver support for the spouse with memory loss. These are unusual relationships that illustrate the capacity to love and care for others in very unexpected situations of finding new love late in life.

Life Becomes Narrow For Spousal Caregivers

Until one becomes a caregiver it is impossible to understand the day-to-day joys, pressures, and struggles. Outsiders, who are non-caregivers, may be quick to judge and be critical of the decisions and actions of caregivers.

Friends continue their lives, rarely calling to chat because they dont know what to say. Taking a spouse with dementia to activities outside of the home eventually becomes more work than pleasure. Longstanding friends may become embarrassed or uncomfortable by the changes they see in an old friend and may stop visiting.

Adult children may feel similar, not knowing how to talk to a parent with dementia. Watching a parent who managed the household, had a busy career, and who was active in the community who now needs help going to the bathroom can be a discomforting experience for children.

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Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia

When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:

  • Delusional behavior

The Painful Truth Of Dealing With Confusion

What to do When Your Spouse Has Dementia

Your spouse may become confused about the time/place due to memory loss and insist that they are taken home.

Another reason for this demand could be an attempt to going back to a time when they were more in control of their life. When that happens, it is best to indicate to them that they are confused.

Use pictures and tangible things to remind them where they are.

It is all about making them feel safe. This can happen if you have recently had to move and changed houses.

What you should avoid doing is giving someone a lengthy explanation about their condition. You shouldnt expect that youd be able to reason with them either.

In fact, doing these things might trigger the confused response that you want to avoid.

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Consider Using Caregiver Counseling Services

  • Alzheimers Family Center has been awarded a generous grant by the Archstone Foundation to provide a fixed number of counseling sessions to caregivers free of charge. Our licensed therapists who are specialized in the unique demands of caregiving to someone with dementia can help with problem solving and understand the disease process.
  • In addition, our therapists can help you address your specific worries, as well as, work through the wide range of emotions that come with caregiving. Let us help you to be the best caregiver you can be.

Who Is More Important

How should a husband or wife react when realizing that my spouse with dementia doesnt know me or believes you to be a friend, sister, or brother. Being gracious rather than correcting a spouse is the kind thing to do even though your heart may be breaking into a thousand pieces.

Caregivers ask is the marriage still a real marriage? Should the healthy spouse dedicate his or her life to caregiving and sacrifice what most would consider a normal life of friends, activities, and companionship? How should life go on for a husband or wife when realizing that my spouse with dementia doesnt know me anymore?

Many spouses honor the commitment of until death do us part but acknowledge that a life of isolation is unrealistic. The realities of the isolation involved in care relationships created by Alzheimers disease are not commonly discussed.

Caring for a spouse with memory loss can change the dynamics of a marital relationship. The caregiving spouse may ask the question, whose life is more important? Caregivers struggle to answer how much of their lives should be sacrificed to care for a loved one whose care needs will only increase in time and complexity.

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Accept That Your Marriage Will Change

A spouses role changes several times throughout most marriages to adapt to life changes. One spouse may take on more responsibilities while the other goes to college, for example having children can also change a marriage. The changes that come with dementia can also alter your marriage.

As your spouses dementia progresses, you will have to take on more responsibilities of managing your household and caring for your family. Marriage becomes less and less of an equal partnership your role will shift from being a spouse to a caregiver. You will likely do most of the household chores and handle bill payments, for example, and you will have to make most of the decisions regarding your household and family. As the condition progresses, you will also have to provide an increasing level of supervision of your spouse.

How Do You Care For A Parent With Dementia At Home

Caring for a spouse with frontotemporal dementia – Ernie’s Story.m4v

Just know that it can be hard and you may eventually need to bring in in-home care or move your husband or loved one to a nursing home.

If you raised children, depending on how progressive the dementia has gotten, you may find many of the same techniques used to help kids will help your loved one.

But to start with, when caring for a husband or other loved one with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia at home, follow these guidelines and tips:

  • Set a routine they can become familiar with
  • Go places and do things that will be familiar
  • Use simple language and clear messages
  • Know they may sometimes struggle to get their words out
  • Be patient
  • Dont let them see you stressed, frustrated, or angry
  • Ask simple questions
  • Have more complicated tasks broken down into baby steps

Depending on how far gone the dementia has gotten you may also need to consider adult diapers if bladder or bowel control has gotten inconsistent. Plastic sheets under the cloth sheets are a must too to protect the mattress.

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Stage : Moderate Dementia

Patients in stage 5 need some assistance in order to carry out their daily lives. The main sign for stage 5 dementia is the inability to remember major details such as the name of a close family member or a home address. Patients may become disoriented about the time and place, have trouble making decisions, and forget basic information about themselves, such as a telephone number or address.

While moderate dementia can interfere with basic functioning, patients at this stage do not need assistance with basic functions such as using the bathroom or eating. Patients also still have the ability to remember their own names and generally the names of spouses and children.

My Life Is Over: My Spouse With Dementia Doesnt Know Me

Spousal caregivers of husbands or wives with dementia can experience loneliness and depression when few outside connections or friendships remain. The responsibility of 24-hour care can become all-encompassing. The option to hire outside caregivers or other assistance may not be not possible due to financial constraints.

What happens when a husband or wife admits to the family that he or she can no longer care for a spouse with Alzheimers disease? Blame, guilt, and shame from family, children, friends, and acquaintances can be freely offered. I would never put my husband in a homewhat are you thinking? Mom would never do that to you.

On the other hand, adult children having witnessed the effects of caregiving may support placing a spouse with dementia in a care community. The realization that mom or dad, whose health is suffering, from the dedication of care can be eye-opening for children who admit they are unable to contribute time or money to the care situation.

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Ways To Support A Spouse With Dementia

Seniors caring for a spouse with dementia may face unique challenges as they adapt to the demands of caregiving while also experiencing changes in their couple relationship.

One key challenge for spousal caregivers is to address the potential risks to their own mental and physical health. According to the University of Waterloos Ontario Dementia Caregivers Needs Project, spouses caring for a partner with dementia are vulnerable to depression. Full-time caregiving can interfere with preventive health behaviours and have consequences for your physical health too, often leading to disabling arthritis, heart and back problems, and stress-related ailments such as migraines and colitis.

So it is especially important for spousal caregivers to focus on maintaining their own health to prevent such problems. If you take care of your health, this can also improve your capacity to help your partner. Here are five ways to support a spouse with dementia.

1) Plan together for the future. People in the early stages of dementia want to have a say in the decisions that will affect their life, including legal, financial and long term care planning. Talking with your spouse about these issues, though difficult, can be empowering for both of you and knowing your partners wishes can help you feel confident about the decisions you will need to make on their behalf, according to the Alzheimers Association.


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