It’s challenging and frightening when loved ones have dementia. The person you’ve known and loved is slipping away and caring for them is becoming increasingly difficult. In addition to the emotional strain created by the situation, families and caregivers are faced with many healthcare decisions. How can you determine the best way to help someone you love with dementia? What options are available? When is professional care needed?
Dementia (a major cognitive disorder) isn’t a specific disease, but an umbrella term for a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. Having memory loss alone doesn’t mean a person has dementia.
Several different diseases may cause dementia and each person’s level of dementia and cause of dementia is different. The entire staff at Chandler Hall Hick’s Residence—nursing, housekeeping, activities coordination and dietary—are specially trained through the Alzheimer’s Association Habilitation Therapy Program. In addition, the staff works with local specialists in the field of dementia—including psychologists, medical social workers and geriatric physicians—and implement new and proven memory support techniques so they are well-equipped to provide the support needed for every type of dementia.
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common and well-known cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of causes of dementia including:
Vascular dementia, also known as “multi-infarct dementia” or “post-stroke dementia,” is the second most common cause of dementia. It’s caused by bleeding within the brain from a stroke which causes brain damage. The main symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgement, loss of motivation and a decreased ability to plan. Vascular dementia cannot be cured, but people who have the ailment are treated to prevent further brain injury from the underlying cause of the ailment. Like Alzheimer’s disease, numerous medication and therapies may be used to help manage the symptoms.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia is the third most common cause of dementia and is also called “cortical Lewy body disease” or “diffuse Lewy body disease.” People with Lewy body dementia have an accumulation of proteins, called Lewy bodies, in the nerve cells of the brain and is related to Parkinson’s disease. It also affects people with a family history of Parkinson’s disease and is more likely to be found in males who are over 60 years of age. The most common symptoms include sleep problems, memory loss, hallucinations and frequent swings in alertness. There is no known treatment to reverse Lewy body dementia or to address its underlying cellular cause, but as with Alzheimer’s and other the other main types of dementia, a wide array of therapies and treatment are used to improve the patient’s quality of life and alleviate symptoms.
Frontotemporal dementia is fairly rare but believed to be the fourth most common type of dementia. It occurs when the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain are damaged or shrink. Unlike the types of dementia discussed previously, frontotemporal dementia is marked more by behavioral and emotional changes than by cognitive impairment. In fact, memory is preserved in people with frontotemporal dementia. People with Frontotemporal dementia exhibit decreased inhibition that can frequently lead to inappropriate behavior, apathy and loss of motivation, an inability to demonstrate empathy, repetitive of compulsive behaviors and anxiety and depression. Frontotemporal dementia cannot be cured or reversed, but doctors will use medicines to treat uncomfortable or problematic symptoms.
Several other diseases that cause damage to the brain or nerve cells can cause dementia. For example, people with Parkinson’s disease will often exhibit dementia in the later stages of their illness. Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease and alcoholism can all lead to (currently) irreversible cognitive impairment.
With the highest percentage of highly trained memory care staff in the area, Chandler Hall is positioned to help the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) contain costs while helping families navigate the complex and often emotional issues of dealing with dementia.
Finding the Right Care
Finding the right care and support to help navigate the dementia journey is important. Ideally, the best option is a team of physicians, nurses, social workers skilled in memory care that will work with you to create an individualized best plan of care for you and your loved one’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs with respect and dignity, both immediate and future.