Dealing With Dementia in Your Family

For those of you who are not familiar with the affliction known as Dementia, here’s the definition from the National Institue of Health (NIH): Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Dementia and Memory loss

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is something you may have never heard of before and if that’s your situation please consider yourself fortunate. Forgetfulness is one of the first signs many people experience. Losing your keys repeatedly, forgetting something you’re cooking on the stove, missing appointments, forgetting people’s names, forgetting to pay bills on time, needing help using the microwave, and the list goes on. When things are missing and they are really needed the Dementia sufferer will sometimes accuse family members of stealing what is missing.

Pan boiling over due to forgetfulness

How is Dementia Diagnosed?

When there’s a concern that you or a family member might be suffering with Dementia, a visit to your family physician would usually be a good first step. Your family physician should be able to refer you to a specialist who can do some specialized testing to determine what the problem really is. Stress can cause forgetfullness. That goes without saying. However, when problems with reasoning, confusion, and forgetting where home is become the norm, it’s time to ask for help.

Simple tests consist of the ‘tester’ reading a list of words and asking the patient to repeat them. The lists start simply and increase in complexity. That gives some indication to the ‘tester’ as to the patient’s memory. You may say that often you can’t repeat a list of words or numbers and NO, that doesn’t mean you have Dementia or even Early Onset Dementia. Yes, there are what you might consider “levels” of Dementia.
There are blood tests, x-rays, CT Scans, and many more specialized tests that can further diagnose the problem and give the specialist better indications as to what might be prescribed to help treat the symptoms.

Managing Family Members with Dementia

As one who lives with a family member with Dementia, I can say truthfully that Life Will NEVER Be The Same in our home. Some of the simplest things in MOST peoples minds are often extremely confusing to persons suffering with Dementia. That is when patience on the part of the caregiver is most helpful. Interruptions can become the norm. Any process that would in normal life that would take maybe five minutes can now take 30 minutes or more… and all you can do is be kind and loving and WAIT! Getting upset with the family member only increases tension and slows things down even more. There’s a quote that says Patience is a Virtue. I would say it’s a Necessity when a family member has Dementia.

Memory floating away

  You may find that you wake up and discover that your family member has gone for a walk without letting anyone know. Wandering in the neighborhood and not knowing how to get back home can be very scary for them. Especially if they do it at night! Putting alarms on doors can be a big help. Getting a call in the middle of the night from the police, telling you that they have your family member, and they want to know why that person was out walking barefoot in the middle of the night, is not something YOU want to experience.

Another challenge you may experience with patients with Dementia is a syndrome known as Sundown Dementia. In my family, we were at the Emergency Room late in the evening, due to a fall. During the stay my family member fell asleep. She was awakened by a nurse who wanted to draw some blood for another test. There was a battle of words and my family member refused to cooperate. To the extent that she demanded to be released from the ER! The hospital had no alternative but to allow her to leave. A different nurse accompanied us to the parking lot where he mangaged to “sweet talk” her into allowing him to remove the IV from her arm that had been inserted in the ambulance, on the way TO the ER.
That was MY first experience with Sundown Dimentia. While a sundowning episode is happening, it can last for many hours or through the night. If it lasts through the night, it can greatly affect sleep for both the caregiver and person with dementia. Yes, you have a LOT to learn.

Caregiver Support is Often Available

You may have insurance that can help with providing care for your loved one with Dementia. If not, YOU may become the caregiver and after dealing with their problems and listening to the same stories over and over… you can begin to get stressed out. Especially if it’s just you who has to do everything for your family member. Quite often you can find support through Social Services programs. Adult Day Care programs exist to give you a bit of a break during the day so you can work or do whatever YOU need to do during the day. A quick search on Google will provide you with a list of resources in your area that can be of great benefit to you and your family member.

  Daughter providing Caregiver Support

You will actually NEED to take good care of yourself so you can continue YOUR life as you deal with your family members challenges. There are many programs to assist YOU and if you look on Google for: “caregiver support groups for dementia” you will find a LONG list of supporting agencies and programs to assist YOU as you deal with your life’s challenges.

Conclusion

As I said earlier… Your Life Will NEVER Be The Same if you or a family member have Dementia. There will be a learning curve. Start sooner, not later. It does not get easier with time unless you know what to expect and educate yourself on how to cope with situations. And yes, having loads of patience with your family member will be SO helpful. If it’s YOU… being patient with YOUR caregiver can and will likely make your life much easier.

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