Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
How Does Dementia Impact Your Life? Part 1
In a career that focuses on caring for our elder population we are exposed to a variety of chronic and acute conditions that affect people. One of the most prevalent conditions we are challenged with on a daily basis is dementia. Specifically, we are called to find the person still inside, living with dementia. Like with many other diseases, society as a whole tends to focus more on the problem than the person. Meeting people where they are and walking side by side with them through their journey is sometimes difficult but an important role when caring for people with dementia. We need to become investigators and find their past interests and their current capabilities. Then we must adapt our approach to give people a sense of comfort and inclusion. No matter where one is at in their journey through life or what afflictions they suffer, people desire to be cared for and feel valued. In order to begin managing the challenges ahead, we must first understand what we are dealing with.
The World Health Organization defines Dementia as a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behavior and ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging and most forms of dementia CANNOT be corrected. Many people tend to lump all forms of dementia into the category of Alzheimer’s and really there are many types of dementia all having different effects on the mind.
The World Health Organization estimates the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently at 35.6 million. This number will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. This will have a profound impact on our world, especially our health care system. The Alzheimer’s Association reports one in five Medicare dollars is spent providing care for people with dementia.
In other words, our nation is becoming older. Porter Hills has seen this shift in the last 14 years. According to the data, the average resident in our Village Campus in 2000 was 75-years-old. Now, in 2014, the average resident is 91-years-old.
Types of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease: Affecting approximately 70% of the people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be reversed. However ,there are medications that can slow the progress of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association: 1 in 9 Americans 65 years or older have Alzheimer’s disease. Of adults 85 years and older, the number triples to a shocking 1 in 3. The number of deaths related to Alzheimer’s disease increased 68% between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from most other major diseases decreased. Alzheimer’s affects memory, function, and behavior. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, signs of onset include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Confusion with orientation
- Impaired judgment
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Vascular Dementia: affects approximately 20% of the people with dementia. This type of dementia is caused by cerebrovascular disease, when the blood vessels in the brain become blocked for various reasons, this can damage areas of the brain.
Dementia with Lewy Body: brain changes lead to symptoms of dementia usually with hallucinations and visual disturbances in the early stages.
Mixed Dementia: more than one type of dementia occurs simultaneously.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: caused by fluid buildup around the brain and can often be corrected by surgery.
Huntington’s disease: a progressive genetic brain disorder that affects thinking, movement and mood.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome: a chronic memory impairment related to a vitamin deficiency, typically caused by alcohol abuse.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: a rare brain disorder that presents with a rapid decline in memory, mood, movement and thinking.
Delirium: is an acute (or sudden) instance of memory impairment or confusion. It can be caused by an infection, most commonly a UTI, or other types of infections. Additional causes are vitamin deficiency and electrolyte imbalance related to poor nutrition or dehydration. Depression, if left untreated, can also lead to symptoms of dementia as well as sleep deprivation. The important thing to remember regarding delirium is that it CAN be corrected with treatment.
Symptoms of dementia
- Forgetfulness- this is not your typical forgetful or absent-mindedness, this would be a subtle change from a person’s normal cognitive functioning. Examples include: leaving the stove on, leaving water running or having trouble with word finding.
- Repeating statements or questions
- Difficulty with problem solving or planning
- Misplacing items. For example: placing an iron in the refrigerator.
- Missing appointments
- Changes in mood or personality
Behaviors associated with dementia
- Physical or verbal aggression
Personality changes are often the most difficult part of the disease for caregivers to manage. Sometimes a person affected by dementia may become aggressive because they don’t know how else to express themselves; other times they maintain their personality but take it to the extreme. Confusion also appears when trying to complete the daily tasks most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, these changes have a negative impact on the individual with dementia as well as their loved one(s). There is also a lot of stigma associated with dementia which leads to people trying to hide their disease instead of dealing with it.
Currently, there is no cure for this progressive disease that changes a person’s memory and demeanor. However, extensive research is under way to stop this disease from affecting even more lives. Certain risk factors have been identified to help prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. Some of these lifestyle changes include:
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain your blood pressure
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy diet
Caregivers can help! Get involved in your loved one’s care in the early stages. Involve your doctor in the development of a treatment plan early on. Use a calendar to help with orientation. Clear clutter to provide a safe environment. Visual cues can help so place reminders in high traffic areas. Help your loved one create a memory book with labels of photos and events that will help with reflection. Keep in mind, as the disease progresses, your care will need to adapt. Use your resources to help find new ideas.
In part two of our series on dementia, we will discuss the triggers for behaviors associated with dementia, tips for caregivers and how our knowledge of dementia is changing how we care for individuals living with dementia.
If you would like to support Porter Hills in the fight against Alzheimer’s, join us on Friday, September 5, between 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Porter Hills Village campus (3600 East Fulton) for an All-You-Can-Eat Picnic for $5. All proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association so they can continue their research for a cure.
- http://www.alz.org/ – The Alzheimer’s Association
- http://www.who.int/ – The World Health Organization
- http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ – The National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke
- http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ – The national Institute of Mental Health
- http://www.in-themoment.com/ – A website resource that draws the parallels of caring for individuals with dementia and Improvisation- tips for caregivers