There are many misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Although they might seem like the same thing, Dementia is not always due Alzheimer's disease. There are some key differences that are important to know about when providing care for someone with dementia.
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Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, dementia is not a specific disease; it is rather the term that refers to a grouping of symptoms that can be brought on by several different brain disorders. It is characterized by diminished intellectual functioning like loss of memory, difficulty with language, decreased perception, and impaired reasoning. Alzheimer’s is just a single type of dementia, but, it does account for around 60 to 80% of the collective cases of dementia.
Depending on the cause of the dementia, sometimes symptoms can be reversed such as in cases of dementia secondary to vitamin deficiency or a drug interaction. Alzheimer’s and dementia care should include a thorough assessment by a physician to rule out nutrient deficiencies or drug side effects as contributors to memory loss.
While it is true that many of the diagnoses of dementia are of people age 65 and older, 15% of Canadians diagnosed with the disease are young/early onset (under the age of 65). Symptoms can include inappropriate behavior, impaired judgment, or loss of communication skills in younger people.
Some memory loss is typical in aging, but the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease has an impact on daily life for seniors around the world, which means that it is a very serious problem. In the early stages, an individual might forget the dates of important events, and ask the same questions repeatedly. Eventually they may become very disoriented and confused, making it impossible to carry out simple daily tasks.
The later stages of Alzheimer’s disease diminish the ability to talk and eat, while the senior becomes totally dependent on someone to provide Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and to assist them with many of their activities of daily living.
This is quite important. Alzheimer’s disease remains incurable —— it is on a list of diseases that cannot be cured. There are only two medication types that are approved by Health Canada to help manage the symptoms. These are cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA-receptor antagonists, used to help treat the cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer's Disease is not preventable if you have a genetic mutation for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is possible however, to reduce the risks if you are not genetically predisposed. Risks can be reduced by maintaining a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and participating in regular physical activity. Furthermore, maintaining social connections and staying engaged mentally, actually helps to strengthen the connections between nerve cells in the brain, which can help lower the risk for cognitive decline.
Many of those living with Alzheimer’s disease live decently active lives. It is suggested that those surrounding the individual with Alzheimer’s disease take part in helping them to stay socially engaged and physically active. This can be done by having them participate in activities that are fun for the individual while also encouraging the use of their mind and body.
Glancing through or organizing photo albums, gardening, writing letters, listening to music, dancing, creating arts and crafts, and spending more time with family are all examples of engaging activities. Adequate Alzheimer’s and dementia care for your loved one involves ensuring that their quality of life is maintained as much as possible, and that they continue to live with dignity.