When a loved one begins to show signs of forgetfulness and difficulty recalling common memories, it is often generalized that the person suffers from mental deterioration. The relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is not always fully understood by society. Therefore, the condition is talked about non-specifically and referred to under either title. While there are similarities and alikeness to the extent that both conditions are progressive, affect brain function and become worse over time, there is one major difference: dementia is not a disease.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a medical term for the overall general mental decline in a person including: memory loss, decreased mental span, decreased reasoning and decline in judgement. Speech and language ability are also affected. Dementia Symptoms begin slowly and become worse over time. Short-term memory failure is usually the first sign with on-set dementia. There are numerous types of dementia and symptoms can be similar regardless of type. Parkinson’s disease for example, also results from changes in the brain and can present with memory loss and thinking problems as well.
Dementia has a unique set of behavior issues. It is important to understand that behavior has a purpose. Since people that suffer from dementia cannot tell us what they want, their activities may surface in curious and sometimes destructive ways. Behavior is also ever-changing so as dementia progresses, positive responses received after redirecting past behaviors may not always be the result. Creativity, patients and understanding key dementia behaviors can really help. Even though a person is suffering from mental decline, they will still desire to fulfill the routine activities of every-day life like exercise, dining and entertainment.
Key Behaviors Of Dementia
- Uncooperative and resistant
- Confused and distracted
- Unruly behavior and verbal outbursts
- Incontinence and poor hygiene
- Agitation and paranoia
- Repetitive speech or actions
- Sun downing or trouble sleeping
- Significant weight loss
Alzheimer’s Is A Form Of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for up to 80% of dementia cases however, memory loss does not always mean that the individual is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Because of this, new criteria has been published breaking-down Alzheimer’s disease into three stages: Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, and finally dementia. Dementia is the stage when memory, judgement and behavior becomes so detrimental that the persons ability to function is truly lost.
Signs of Alzheimer’s disease reflect dementia’s key behaviors adding to the difficulty of diagnosis. The pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s begins several years before the onset of dementia and can be confused with routine aging. Genetics, risk factors and environmental exposure can all increase progression and deterioration in the brain leading up to cognitive impairment: the second stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI is the intermediate stage between normal aging and full onset dementia. MCI can increase the risk of developing dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. At the most advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, when dementia sets in, it will often be necessary to seek memory care.
Memory care is provided at many secure assisted living or nursing home facilities and can be a crucial stage in end-of-life care for those with memory impairment. Medication management, daily meals, physical therapy programs along with social activities will provide a comprehensive, 24-hour personal assisted-living environment for elderly adults suffering from dementia.
Once adjusted to their surroundings, dementia patients will feel safe and comfortable allowing them to resume normal activities and lead a happy life.