It’s common to misunderstand dementia. When a family member is given a dementia diagnosis, it can be a stressful time filled with many unanswered questions. Dementia is still a mysterious and misunderstood illness, but new advances are being made daily to better understand it and support those who have it in living fulfilling lives.
To help you better understand the condition, here are some of the frequently asked questions about dementia and Alzheimer’s:
What is dementia?
Like heart disease, it is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of distinct medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. Abnormal brain changes are the root cause of the disorders grouped under the umbrella term “dementia.” These changes cause a decline in thinking skills, also called cognitive abilities, that is severe enough to make it hard to get through the day and do things on your own. They also change how people act, feel, and relate to each other.
The severity of the condition is different from one person to the next. The mildest stage is when it begins affecting how you function, while the most severe stage is when a person depends on caregivers to perform daily activities and live safely.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates there are between 401,300 and 487,500 Australians living with dementia.
What causes dementia?
Brain cell damage is the root cause. The communication between brain cells is disrupted as a result of this damage. Thinking, behaviour, and feelings can all be impacted by a disruption in normal brain cell communication.
There are numerous distinct regions in the brain, and each one of them performs a different function (for example, memory, judgement and movement). Damaged cells in a specific area prevent that area from performing its functions normally.
What are the symptoms and signs?
There is more to dementia than memory challenges. If you’re having trouble remembering things, know that they might not be signs of dementia. Instead, it could be that normal ageing is making you forget things. However, it’s important to know that dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Signs can vary greatly, including problems with:
- Short-term memory
- Payment of bills
- Meal planning and preparation
- Remembering appointments
- Traveling around familiar locations
Since many conditions progress over time, the early symptoms and signs may start out slowly and gradually get worse.
How is it diagnosed?
There isn’t a single test that can identify dementia in a person. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms are identified by doctors based on a thorough medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and the distinctive cognitive, functional, and behavioural changes that are unique to each type. A person’s diagnosis can be identified with a high degree of certainty by medical professionals.
Although dementia is not treatable, catching it early helps plan and ensure that your loved one lives the best life they can.
How can I help a loved one with dementia at home?
Understanding the difficulties someone is going through is the first step in providing assistance. If you would like to help your loved one live independently at home for as long as possible, you can:
- Engage an Occupational Therapist for support with assistive technology and home modifications to make the home safer
- Keep a routine for simple day-to-day tasks and encourage as much independence as possible
- Join a local support group to help cope with the emotions of your caregiving journey
- Engage an in-home care provider like My Care Solution for specialist dementia care and memory activities
While dealing with dementia is full of uncertainties, you’re not alone. My Care Solutions provide in-home aged care that’s personal and offered by a team of experts assigned to every client. If you’re in Adelaide or Victor Harbor, our team is more than happy to help. Contact us to learn more about our range of home care services, including our specialist dementia care services.