Alzheimer’s and Dementia: two complicated conditions that we will inevitably come into contact with at some point during our lifetime. These terms are often used interchangeably and as a result, misunderstood. While Alzheimer’s and Dementia do mirror one another in certain ways, knowing the differentiating factors will allow us and our loved ones to navigate these challenging diseases with greater understanding and compassion.
In simple terms, Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities while Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects parts of the brain that control our thoughts, memory and language.
What Are The Early Signs Of Alzheimer’s And Dementia?
People experience Alzheimer’s and Dementia in different ways depending on their existing physical and cognitive situations. Although there is no blueprint for how each condition will transform an individual, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that worsens over time within varying time frames unlike Dementia where symptoms tend to gradually worsen over a larger span of years.
What Can I Expect? What Can My Loved Ones Expect?
Knowing what to expect and what signs may be an early indication of Alzheimer’s and Dementia on-set will help you and your loved ones properly prepare yourselves and take the necessary steps at the right time including arranging for additional medications and around the clock home care.
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may still be able to function quite well on their own with little need for outside support. Because he or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities, it’s sometimes difficult to detect when slight changes start to occur.
One obvious difference you may begin to realize is the beginning of memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. Everyone forgets their purse somewhere occasionally or cannot bring up a name from the past automatically because of sleepiness and other distractions. Many seniors with Alzheimer’s also experience Sundowner’s Syndrome, with symptoms such as agitation and confusion.
Moderate Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care and support over time. You may notice they are starting to confuse words and often get frustrated or angry more frequently. They may also begin to act out of character such as refusing to bathe or have difficulty expressing ideas and opinions.
In the final stage of this disease, personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions are common. Individuals start to lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a coherent conversation and, eventually, to control their physical movements. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating any pain they’re experiencing becomes more difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, personality changes may also take place and individuals will need extensive help with daily activities.
What Tips Would You Give To A Friend or Family Member Experiencing Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Educate Yourself About The Disease: Use support groups as much as possible and attend educational workshops. It’s much easier navigating the situation knowing you’re not alone and always have access to information. Look through Alzheimer Association websites and visit with your community resources and professionals to increase your knowledge of the disease and what to expect.
Build Your Skills: If you’re a family caregiver, take time to develop the necessary skills to provide the right care for your loved one and for yourself including communication, understanding safety considerations and recognizing changes in behaviour.
Have Patience: It’s important to gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a person living with dementia. Developing greater insight into what your loved one is enduring as they experience the on-set of this disease will provide you with a more compassionate outlook.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout: If you’re the sole caregiver or part of a caregiving team, be sure to take time out for yourself and consider respite care services. Getting plenty of exercise, sleep and you-time is paramount for your health and will better help you deal with the challenges of your daily situation.
Support Is Critical: Don’t hesitate to seek support from family, friends, and medical professionals to assist you when things feel overwhelming. You may also want to consider arranging for home care to allow you extra time to carry out your own life matters and daily responsibilities.
Stay Active and Engaged: Be mindful of what brings you and your loved one pleasure so you can continue a path of happier ageing. Take long walks, listen to music together, read, watch funny movies, and enjoy the little things that have always brought you joy.
Advocate: Be involved in your loved one’s care and know who is a part of the care team. Ask questions so you feel as comfortable as possible with this new process and talk about your concerns and treatment options openly and honestly with your family and caregiver.
Be Prepared: Take steps to ensure you and your family member or friend’s financial, legal, and long- term care planning issues are settled in advance. Try to involve your loved one in any major decision- making process whenever possible if they are still able to contribute their thoughts and opinions. Take into consider their wishes related to their own future care and end of life arrangements to maintain their sense of dignity and independence.
Don’t Forget To Connect: Kindness, humor, and creativity are essential parts of caregiving. Give lots of hugs, provide a gentle touch often, and extend your compassion to help your loved one feel connected, loved and never alone.
Stay Positive: This is perhaps the most challenging tip to put into action and also the most important. Focus on all the capabilities, talents and strengths that remain with your loved one and enjoy your relationship right now as much as possible while you are both still together. Live in the moment.
Get in touch with our Care Team to learn more about Nurse Next Door’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia care call 1-877-588-8609.