1. It’s not just memory loss. It’s a brain disease.
Given the unfortunate prevalence of dementia, “dementia” is often equated to Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s is equated to memory loss.
Dementia is NOT just memory loss. Dementia impacts the entire brain. Yes, memory is often impacted as memory is a very complex brain function. Given the brain “runs” the body, dementia impacts how someone processes information, controls emotions, thinking, reactions, responses. Ultimately, dementia impacts the “automatic” functions like going to bathroom, hunger, etc.
2. It’s an umbrella term covering over 50 different types of dementia
Most everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s. Vascular, Lewy Body and Frontal-Temporal are also very common forms of dementia. Clinicians have identified over 50 different types. Each type may impact the brain differently creating a different set of symptoms and care challenges.
3. It impacts vision, taste, touch and smell. It usually does not impact hearing.
Vision is processed in the brain. Our eyes are the “lenses.” Given the massive amount of incoming information from vision, the brain begins to “close” our visual peripheral field with dementia to limit incoming information. Try this: Make a “scuba mask” with your hands and put it over your eyes—this is your visual field w/ dementia—a substantial loss of the peripheral. Imagine how this impacts someone’s daily life, increases safety issues and ups care challenges. Plus, seniors often have normal eye issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Further, dementia may impact spatial perception. Going down the stairs may become very hard as the brain has trouble interpreting depth changes.
Dementia can impact taste and smell where “normal” odors (say rotting garbage) are not noticed or favorite foods are no longer pleasurable. Tactile (touch) may be impacted where the brain is unable to process—ie something “soft” does not feel soft, clothes that never irritated someone suddenly become unwearable. The portion of the brain that processes hearing is typically not impacted by dementia. The hearing “issue” you may see is the brain processing impact and not being able to access information in the brain. For example—they hear a bark. It’s complex process for the brain to hear a sound, access that sound from memory, find the name of the sound and speak it.
4. Normal aging v. dementia
Normal aging is often the inability to access our “working” memory. We can hold 5-10 things in our very short-term working memory and it does degrade as we age.
Dementia is different. Below are examples that may indicate dementia v. normal aging.
• Total memory loss for recent or new information (went to doctor yesterday—zero recall)
• Inappropriate speech (cuss, sex word) or unmanaged behaviors—loss of social “filter”
• Difficulty finding words when speaking or understanding words
• Apathy, loss of initiative or withdraw from pleasurable activities
• Change in mood especially depression and anxiety
• Difficulty completing normal tasks
• Being repetitive
• A failing sense of direction
These symptoms and examples do NOT mean someone has dementia but they have been associated with people with dementia (ie list from Alzheimer’s Association). Only a qualified clinician can diagnose dementia.
5. Caregiving takes a shift in focus
Just by reading these few facts, you are on your way! We realize caregiving for people with dementia, especially loved ones, is extremely hard. We realize “you just want your mom or dad back.” Until there is a cure, there is care. And you can be a great caregiver by educating yourself on the disease and shifting your focus to meet your loved-one where they are at with their disease, currently, not where you want them to be.
How We Can Help
Benefits of Home is one of the leading, in-home senior care organizations in Johnson County, Kansas. Founded in 2007, Benefits of Home has cared for over 4,000 seniors and currently cares over 125 seniors a week. We have earned an A+ BBB rating and numerous 5-star reviews on Google and Care In Homes.
We support dementia clients and their families in multiple ways:
– Experienced caregivers who have cared for dementia clients
– Dementia-Focused Activities tuned to a client’s specifics likes
– Dementia Resource Guide. Articles and videos to help you understand the disease, communicate, and provide care
– Family Dementia Training. One-on-one training with our Positive Approach to Care Certified Independent Dementia Trainer
Positive Approach To Care®
Benefits of Home has taken steps to implement the teachings and trainings about dementia by Teepa Snow and the Positive Approach to Care® methods. Our PAC™ Certified Independent Trainer (owner, Kent Westervelt) guides learning and skills as supported by his certification. While we are inspired by the content and methods included in a PAC Certification, Benefits of Home is solely responsible for the use and implementation of the approved content from PAC