In an ideal world, each one of us would age gracefully and enjoy every moment that our lives have to offer. From watching our kids grow and become adults—and become parents, too—and precious time with our grandchildren, we all envision our twilight years as being filled with relaxation, peace, and good times spent with family and friends.
But that is not always the case. Too often our memories are robbed from us, stealing every precious moment spent with our loved ones. Family and friends slowly become strangers while the delicate string of life becomes frayed at the ends.
Dementia, also known as “senility,” is a horrible, unforgiving disease. According to Alzheimer’s.org: “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.”
They continue: “Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.”
When it comes time to make hard decisions regarding a loved one who is showing signs of dementia, it is imperative to do your homework and research the best possible dementia care for them to give both them and you the peace of mind you all deserve.
What do you, as a caregiver, need to know about this condition? Alzheimer’s Research in the UK has a few basic points that you, the caregiver, and/or the loved one need to know about caring for a senior with dementia.
Dementia itself is not a disease.
Dementia is actually a combination of several diseases and is simply an umbrella term for the symptoms associated with these diseases, such as memory loss, confusion, and changes in personality. Alzheimersresearchuk.org also says that Alzheimer’s disease is “the most common cause but other dementias include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.”
It’s possible to live an independent and active life with dementia.
Dementia is not necessarily a sentence that involves having to have others care for you around the clock, nor does it mean your life will completely change. There are many strategies and support mechanisms, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, that help patients live as normal a life as possible, including new hobbies, making friends, and/or taking part in research.
Dementia doesn’t discriminate.
No one is immune to dementia. While some will develop it and some will not, there are cases of both in all socioeconomic groups, races, genders, and areas of the world.
There are no treatments to stop the diseases that cause dementia.
While it is possible to alleviate the symptoms of dementia, there is no cure, and there is no way via treatment with medicine or other means to stop the disease. Once the disease is present, it will continue to get worse over time.
Keep things in perspective.
This will be a very trying and difficult time for all involved, but not every day will be stressful. Erie County New York Senior Services has some wonderful pointers and tips to help caregivers of a senior with dementia make it through each day. Here are just a few suggestions they feel are necessary for anyone involved in the care of a senior afflicted with this horrible condition.
- Take one day at a time.
- Be prepared for new situations each day.
- Try to maintain a stable environment and a positive attitude.
- Acknowledge your right to feel angry, and then do something to get rid of this anger.
- Maintain a sense of humor.
- Try to put yourself in the patient’s shoes when you feel frustrated or hopeless.
Dementia is a horrible condition. It robs every victim of what is most precious: their soul. It takes memories and throws them in a mental trash bin. It robs personality traits once cherished and leaves crumbs of confusion, misery, and depression.
However, it isn’t all bad all the time. By adhering to some common sense coping mechanisms and by understanding what the condition is and what it isn’t, a caregiver and/or a loved one can make the most of the precious time left with their senior. That is something none of us should ever forget.