Learning, accepting, and adjusting to the changes that life casts your way is a continuous and sometimes challenging process. Changes that involve dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can alter your priorities, relationships, and way of life profoundly.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that describe a gradual loss of intellectual and social functioning, including memory loss, changes in personality and behavior, and impaired language, judgment, orientation, motor, and spatial functioning. Dementia is due to disease or trauma to the brain and is not a part of normal aging. In fact, symptoms are often so severe that those afflicted by dementia find it difficult, and many times impossible, to function independently through everyday life. Beware of a deterioration of communication, knowledge, memory, and analytical abilities that may be associated with dementia. The onset of dementia generally occurs between the ages of 70 and 80.
Warning signs of dementia:
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment and reasoning
- Impaired conceptual thinking
- Improper or uncharacteristic behavior
- Inability to communicate coherently or intelligently
- Difficulty with walking and balance
- Difficulty with routine tasks
- Inability to care for personal safety, hygiene, or diet
Studies show that dementia may be caused by a blend of lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors, including medical conditions that increasingly attack brain cells (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease), medical conditions that prevent oxygen flow to the brain (e.g. strokes), poor diet, drug and alcohol abuse, dehydration, brain injury, and trauma to the nervous system (e.g. HIV).
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The onset of Alzheimer’s can occur as early as 45 years of age. Alzheimer’s begins with mild memory loss and progresses to extensive neurological impairment and eventually death. Twenty-six million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide and by 2050 over 15 million Americans will be diagnosed. Alzheimer’s disease affects one in ten people over the age of 65. Warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease parallel those of dementia.
How can you help prevent or delay dementia?
- Stick to a healthy diet
- Get plenty of mental stimulation
- Get plenty of sleep
- Reduce stress
- Keep away from smoking and drinking
How can you cope with dementia?
- Get emotional support from family, friends, or a support group
- Create a plan early: designate a Power of Attorney, create a Living Will, communicate treatment and end-of-life preferences, and organize your medical, financial, and legal matters
- Delay symptoms: treat depression, anxiety, and sleep problems and discuss preventative medication options with your doctor
- Create a lifestyle based on joy, self-sufficiency, ease of use, and safety: encourage memories with well-known pictures and other items, take away tripping dangers, boost lighting, and organize a help-network of family, friends and doctors
- Encourage happiness: focus on the positives