Most people have experienced living with someone with dementia and the team at 1776 understands the challenges of assisting someone with dementia. Dementia care is not easy on the caregiver and often those afflicted with the disease are unaware of their own progression. When facing the challenges of helping and assisting a loved one in early, mid, or late stages of dementia, it is good to be knowledgeable. Dementia care with a caregiver can help, but there are so many ways you can help your loved one stay healthy, safe, and happy.
Many people are confused by the term dementia. They don’t know what it encompasses or what it means. Sometimes they even use dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably, even though there are differences. Dementia is a general term for the decline in mental ability that interferes with someone’s daily life. Memory loss is only one aspect of dementia and does not describe the entirety of the condition. Because dementia is an umbrella term, it is not a specific disease within itself but a grouping of symptoms. Many people confuse senility with dementia. Being senile is only the temporary loss of memory, dementia affects not only memory but physical abilities of those suffering from the disease.
Some aspect of dementia, when treated correctly, are reversible. Thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies are examples of something that can be “cured.” Others conditions are debilitating and will worsen over time.
The most commonly feared form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. It is a progressive brain disorder that has no cure. Eventually those diagnosed with the disease will lose memory and thinking skills and will be unable to perform basic activities of daily living. 5.5 million Americans are considered to have some form of Alzheimer’s, most of them are 65 or older. Generally, symptoms appear in a person’s mid-60s.
The disease was discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer when he examined a brain and found amyloid plaque clumps and tangled brain fibers called neurofibrillary tangles. The brain also loses the connections between neurons, which is transmit information from the brain to muscles and organs. This explains the motor and cognitive impairment suffered by Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Alzheimer’s is broken into three stages, each with its own symptoms:
This disease is named after its discoverer Frederich H. Lewy. He was working on Alzheimer’s disease in the early 1900s when he discovered a brain abnormality linked to the Alpha-synuclein protein. This form of dementia is considered the third most common and is often involved in 5 out of 10 cases of dementia. Lewy bodies are not only limited to this form of the disease, but are found in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.
Symptoms of Lewy Body dementia can include:
More information about Lewy Body Dementia is available.
Often starting gradually with barely noticeable tremors in the hand, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that disrupts mobility. Beyond tremors, those with the disorder often have stiffness or slower movement. There are medications that help improve symptoms of Parkinson’s, but there is no cure. The disease causes neurons to die or break apart and often affect a dopamine imbalance and increase. This leads to the abnormal brain activity associated with Parkinson’s.
Identified by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, the disorder has five stages those diagnosed travel though. The progression across stages has no concrete timeline. Sometimes there are years between stages, other times it can be measured in months. Stage 1 is the leads debilitating; activities of daily living are not affected and rarely does the disease interfere with normal living. Generally, there are tremors on one side of the body during this stage. Stage 2 sees an increase in previous symptoms and they become noticeable. Mobility issues become more prominent and speech can sometimes be an issue. Tasks take longer to complete, but the person with Parkinson’s can generally live on their own.
When Stage 3 begins, the disease interferes in prominent ways. Falls become common as the disorder affects movement more and activities of daily living are greatly inhibited. Stage 4 is marked by the loss of independence. Many people will need to begin using assistive devices, like a walker. Because of decreased reaction times and movement impediments, living alone becomes nearly impossible and dangerous. The final stage is can find someone suffering from the disease with a total lack of mobility; leg and joints are often frozen. In the latter stages, symptoms common to dementia often set in.
The major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease depend on the stage, but generally include:
Knowing when it is time for Parkinson’s care is important. Without assistance, a person suffering from the symptoms can be in great danger.
Huntington’s Disease is inherited and is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain. It was named after Dr. George Huntington, who wrote about it in 1872. He discovered the inherited gene is defective and therefore causes the affliction to manifest. The brain disorder is caused by a defect on chromosome 4 of a person’s DNA and is a dominant trait (being dominant means that the disease will develop). It has been discovered that a protein in the DNA is responsible for the defect but are unaware of its normal function.
Symptoms for the disease normally appear sometime during mid-life (between 30-50), but can appear in younger and older people. Medication is available to alleviate symptoms, but decline is inevitable. Typical symptoms include:
Often called CJD, this affliction is caused by a prion protein in the brain. An infected prion will cause other proteins that have folded correctly to become misfolded. Most people have no family history of CJD, but 7.5% of cases are inherited. Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt was one of the first people to describe the disease, and he was closely followed by Alfons Maria Jakob (hence the shared naming).
Many people are aware of CJD because of an outbreak of a variant of the disease that was attributed to people eating tainted beef in the UK in the 1990s. This variant was different than classic CJD (there is not discovered correlation between CJD and beef consumption). This is a rare disease with only one in a million people being diagnosed each year. Eventually, most of those suffering from the disease will fall into a coma and with this, heart or respiratory failure may occur, as well as contracting pneumonia and infections.
Beyond mental degeneration, symptoms include:
This rare form of dementia is often caused by extensive alcohol use and is caused by a deficiency of thiamine, also known as vitamin B-1. People who’s bodies do not absorb food correctly can also be diagnosed with this disease. The disorder is caused when the brain becomes damaged in the thalamus and hypothalamus, which ultimately results in permanent damage in memory activities of the brain. The brain receives the damage when thiamine is missing and does not produce energy from sugar, this results in the brains inability to function properly.
Korsakoff syndrome is often paired with Wernicke encephalopathy, but not always. This is the brains reaction to the lack of thiamine and is a life-threatening emergency.
Symptoms of Korsakoff Syndrome include:
When people face issues with reasoning, planning, judgement, and memory caused by low blood flow to the brain due to damage, they are often diagnosed with vascular dementia. This form of dementia will often, but not always, form after a stroke.
Vascular dementia can also be diagnosed if someone has damaged blood vessels and reduced circulation, which doesn’t allow oxygen and nutrients to flow to the brain. Low or inadequate blood flow to any part of the body will damage and kill cells, but when this occurs to the brain, larger issues develop.
Many medical experts have begun to use the term “vascular cognitive impairment” or VCI to describe the condition since it more accurately reflects the thinking issues that are derived. This is considered the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s.
VCI has many symptoms, but the severity depends on the amount of damage to the brain. They can include:
Not a single condition, but a grouping of disorders, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is often called “the cruelest disease.” The disorder can alter personality and create behavior and language issues. The disease occurs when the frontal and temporal lobes begin to shrink.
Many people have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s or with a psychiatric issue, but actually have FTD. This form of dementia will often appear in people during their 40s, and was formerly known as “Pick’s Disease.” There are many different forms of FTD that need to be diagnosed for correct symptom relief.
There is a lot of difficulty in defining the symptoms of FTD due to the multiple variants, but generally symptoms are defined by:
When someone experiences two or more forms of dementia, they can be diagnosed with mixed dementia. There are numerous combinations of different disorders that can manifest, and many believe mixed dementia is the most common dementia in the elderly.
Many people assume that mixed dementia is solely Alzheimer’s, but since many symptoms overlap, actual diagnosis by a professional can reveal the multiple disorders involved. Having a proper diagnosis can greatly help in the treatment of symptoms. One of the most common forms of mixed dementia is Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
There are no over-all signs or symptoms your loved one has dementia. Reviewing the symptoms of each form of the condition reveals that brain function is the common thread. Changes in memory, personality, and reasoning can all be signs of dementia. Motor skills and mobility are often affected, too.
No single symptom can determine the condition, but if you notice any changes or red flags in your loved one based on the symptoms above, contact your doctor immediately. Often their friends may notice changes. A social life is vitally important to senior health—take their friends concerns seriously.
Your loved one may not realize they need help but being honest with them about the need for a visit to the doctor is important. Only a skilled doctor can diagnose a condition and with the multiple types of symptom overlaps in dementia, finding the correct diagnosis will assure the right kind of help is needed.
There are many ways to help someone who is diagnosed with dementia. Family members, friends, and caregivers are very important to their safety and happiness. Reading this page is a great first step to being able to help your loved one, but there are many other ways you can assist them in enjoying a full and enjoyable life.
If your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, their well-being oftentimes relies on family, friends, and familiar community. Eventually, you may even consider moving them into a nursing facility.
Dementia Care from 1776 can provide the peace of mind you and your loved one need. Our caregivers provide sympathetic, specialized help designed for those coping with dementia. In the hands of our trusted specialists, your loved one can continue to live at home, receiving care that’s designed to maximize their satisfaction of life. In the meantime, you’ll be given the peace of mind for other important responsibilities.
At 1776, we know the hardships of loving those with all stages of dementia. Not like other types of elderly care, our dementia care services are designed for symptoms, risks, and challenges affiliated different stages of dementia.
Your loved one will be in the hands of trusted specialists that are qualified to care for those with dementia. All 1776 caregivers are given dementia home care training, however many of our caregivers specialize in providing advanced dementia home care services.
Through our dementia care plan, we will provide the best help focused on your loved one. We assist clients in normal day-to-day activities, as well as personal companionship, and offer helpful reminders when needed.
Our dementia home care services include:
Getting started with dementia care is simple. We offer free consultations to help determine how our services would best fit you and your family. During our assessment, in the comfort of your own home, you will be able to ask as many questions as you'd like.
First, a customized care plan for your loved one's symptoms, lifestyle choices, preferences, and recommendations will be created. If you are ready to move on with our care, then we will match your loved one's preferences with a specialized caregiver whose skills and energy match the needs of your loved one.
Interested in learning more about dementia care from 1776? Request a free quote and get your loved one the dementia care they need.
There are many helpful organizations and resources to help you learn more about dementia.
1776 Senior Care provides custom-tailored in-home near you. Our service area includes all of DuPage county and the following cities and towns in Illinois. Our local, compassionate caregivers will provide your loved one with the best care possible.