•That Is Dementia Or Alzheimer
•A Hot Topic For Families
“Although your loved one may not remember you or might do things that frustrate you, this is the time when he or she needs you the most”- Angie Nunez Merryman
Living with Dementia of Alzheimer: A Hot Topic for Families
A few years ago, I knew nothing about Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. I joke that I couldn’t even spell it correctly, however, that is actually true. Now I’ve typed the word Alzheimer’s so many times, it’s ingrained into my muscle memory much like a routinely-typed password.
I had a severely misguided view of the disease, which involved an image of an old lady or an old man in the corner of a nursing home or locked up in a room because families are afraid to let people know that their mom, dad, or grandparents have some type of old age memory loss. To even type those words embarrasses me now.
But this is a reminder to me that the vast majority of people around the world including Nigeria have a similar view, and a complete misunderstanding about Dementia of the Alzheimer.
Thus, I’m trying to help change this by debunking many of the myths, so that others have a better understanding, which hopefully results in more compassion and empathy.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA/ALZHEIMER?
Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. It is severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
A person with dementia may also experience changes in mood or behaviour. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse as more brain cells become damaged and eventually die.
There are different types of dementia; the most common is dementia of the Alzheimer type. Other types include Fronto-temporal dementia, which affect change in personality, behavior and difficult with language, Vascular dementia cause impaired judgment or ability to plan steps needed to complete a task. While Lewy bodies affect sleep disturbance, muscle rigidity and hallucination.
However, with Korsakoff’s syndrome there may be a severe memory problem while social skills seem moderately unaffected unlike Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is a fatal disorder that impairs memory, coordination, and causes behavior changes. These are just some of the many dementias, there are still few more and research is still undergoing (Alzheimer’s Society.com).
STAGE, SIGNS, AND SYMPTOMS
In stage one of dementia, this stage is used to describe normal forgetfulness related with aging; for example, forgetfulness of names and where familiar objects were left. However, Symptoms are not obviousto family members or family doctors and this is not part of dementia.
InStage two however, there are increased forgetfulness, slight difficulty concentrating, and decreased work performance. People may get lost more often or have difficulty finding the right words and may be unable to find simple thing like toothbrush but rather will ask for “that thing for my mouth”. At this stage, a person’s family will notice a decline in their thinking ability.
The average length for the beginning of dementia is seven years.Though, in stage threethey will have trouble concentrating, reduced memory of recent events, difficulties managing finances or traveling alone to new locations and may even get lost in their own neighbourhood and may forget where they are and how to get home. In addition, people may have trouble finishingdifficultjobswellor correctly and may be in denial about their symptoms and they may also start staying away from family or friends, because they find it difficult to socialize. The average duration of this symptom is 2 years.
Elderly people in stage fourhave major memory loss and need some assistance to complete their daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and preparing meals. Memory loss is more noticeableand may include major relevant parts of current lives; for example, people may not remember their address or phone number and may not know the time or day or where they are. This symptom last for 1.5 years.
Severe loss of thinking ability in stage five is suffered by the elderly and they require lots ofhelp to carry out daily activities. They start to forget names of close family members and have little memory of recent events. Many people can remember only some details of earlier life.
They also have difficulty counting down from 10 and finishing tasks. In this stage, loss of bladder or bowel control is a problem because they cannot feel the movement to use the toilet. Moreover, they are unable to speak or play with children or grandchildren when they see them. Moreover, personality changes, such as believing something to be true that is not, repeating a simple behavior, such as cleaning, rearranging and packing their clothes, or feeling fearful and irritated will also be experienced. This stage can last to 2.5 years.
In stage six which is the late stage of Dementia/Alzheimer. This is a stage where the elderly suffers a very serious loss of thinking ability. Those in this stage have basically no ability to speak or communicate. They require total assistance with most activities such as using the toilet, eating, bathing, brushing their teeth, getting dress etc. They often lose the ability to use their hand to throw a small ball, their eyes are not focus, unable to use their arms and finger to hold an object and they can not walk. This symptom las for 2.5 years(www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/facts/stages/).
CAUSES OF DEMENTIA OF THE ALZHEIMER
Generally, Dementia/Alzheimer is not caused by a person’s behaviors or actions. Instead, most dementia happens due to a biological cause or a physical event in the body such as damage to blood vessels in the brain, such as a strokes or severe head injuries. Dementia of the Alzheimer can also develop from a chemical imbalance due to certain types of medications andlack of proper food.
While memory loss may be an early indicator of Dementia/Alzheimer’s, the disease is much more complex. As the disease progresses, other abilities such as speech, reasoning, visual perceptions, and coordination become affected, and impact a person’s day-to-day life.
As a matter of fact, memory issues that affect your daily living might be signs of something to be concerned about, simply being forgetful is generally not going to be Alzheimer’s. Likewise, the image of anaged grandfather or grandmother happily rocking in his or her chair could not be farther from the truth.
HOW TO COPE WITH DEMENTIA OF THE ALZHEIMER
We are not born knowing how to communicate with a person with Dementia/Alzheimerbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.
Set a positive mood for interaction by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.Get the person’s attention. Limit distractions and noise by turning off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have his or her attention.State your message clearly. Use simple words and sentences.
Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a reassuring tone. Refrain from raising your voice higher or louder; instead, pitch your voice lower. If she doesn’t understand the first time, use the same wording to repeat your message or question. If he or she still does not understand, wait a few minutes and rephrase the question. Use the names of people and places instead of pronouns (he, she, they) or abbreviations.
Moreover, ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved one’s reply. If he or she is struggling for an answer, it’s okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.Break down activities into smaller steps.
This makes many tasks much more manageable. You can encourage your loved one to do what he or she can, gently remind him/her of steps he/she tends to forget, and assist with steps they no longer able to accomplish on theirown. When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject or the environment. Respond with affection and reassurance.
People with Dementia of the Alzheimer often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong. Stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.
Remember the good old days. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with Dementia of the Alzheimer may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.Maintain your sense of humor.
Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person’s expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.
Caring for a loved one with Dementia/Alzheimer’s is the hardest situation for which a family can be confronted. It can start innocently enough, giving the family a false sense, but will eventually have a majoremotional, physical, and financial effect on the family members. Due to the difficultyof the brain, and how the disease literally destroys it, the disease progresses differently for everyone. For some people, disease developmentcan be as short as a couple of years, while for others, it can be a decade or longer.
Again, behaviors and symptoms also vary widely from person to person. They may also vary from day-to-day for the same person, further complicating how the family copes with the disease. There is still a lot to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects our families, neighbors, and communities. Until we have clear answers, myths about the disease will continue.Paying attention, self-educating and listening to those who are coping with the disease is the best way to remove these myths.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing lapses in memory, pay attention to the situation when it occurs, and consult a doctor if it’s repeated and affecting day-to-day activities.In Wortmann (2012), an estimated of 35.6 million people are suffering with Dementia of the Alzheimer in the world which include Nigeria and the number will increase with our aging population reaching 66 million by the year 2030 (p.1).
This article is dedicated to both of my parents S.A and B.I.O (RIP) who are affected by Dementia of the Alzheimer. References
Wortmann, M. (2012). Dementia: a global health priorioty-highlights from an ADI and World Health Organization report. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 4(40), 1-3. Www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/facts/stages/