Many people mistake dementia as a disease and as a natural consequence of getting older when it is actually the result of damage to brain cells that affect memory. Dementia affects 47.5 million people today and there is no cure for this syndrome.
Even though Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, many forms of dementia are a result of injury or stroke. Consequently, dementia is not always progressive and can have an immediate impact on families and friends who aren’t prepared.
For many who have dementia, they face unfair criticism because there’s no test to determine if one has this syndrome. Not surprisingly, people who have dementia can be incredibly confused about why they are having memory problems.
The good news: doctors can determine whether a person has dementia with a high degree of confidence. Still, we must stay vigilant to not criticize or condemn others when they forget things because the truth is we don’t know the cause until it’s identified.
And if you can remember these seventeen things, you’ll have a better understanding of the challenges your loved one with dementia experiences:
1. They will lose their sense of direction
People with dementia have a tendency to lose their sense of direction. It can start with forgetting particular landmarks that once helped them navigate their neighborhood. As a result, you should help them by making lists of where they like to go with detailed and visual instructions.
2. They will lose track of where they keep things
“I can’t remember where I put my keys!” From the smallest things that fit in our pocket to the bigger possessions in our lives like cars, forgetting them can’t take a tremendous mental and often physical toll on people with dementia.
3. They will repeat themselves
“I heard that story yesterday.” People with dementia forget many of the things they say, especially stories. Be careful not to interrupt them and belittle their enthusiasm to tell a story you’ve heard for the tenth time. Instead, ask different questions each time they’re deep in storytelling so the story will take on a new life.
4. They will find difficulty in doing simple tasks
From balancing a checkbook to playing poker, simple tasks will begin to seem more complicated to them. As a result, they may get frustrated with the task and even at others. Don’t let their mood affect yours and remain motivated and willing to help them.
5. They won’t always follow a storyline
Not only will people with dementia repeat stories, but they may leave out huge pieces of the stories they tell. From forgetting particular words to being unable to follow a T.V. show storyline, these are classic warning signs to look out for.
6. They can lack empathy
Having dementia can be a burden on your confidence, adventure, and emotional well-being. Consequently, people with dementia may stop going out and participating in their regular hobbies and activities. I suggest trying your best to excite them about having fun because depression makes having dementia much worse.
7. They can become angry quickly
Sudden anger outbursts, depression, and heightened hysteria are all signs of dementia. Also, it’s not always just a one-time thing, you may see a complete change in personality because when memory is affected, judgment is too.
8. They will find themselves confused
When it’s difficult to remember friends, family, and faces, people with dementia can experience overwhelming confusion. Moreover, when they try to fix the issue by explaining their point of view, they often can’t find the right words; this exacerbates the problem. Stay kind and comforting while they go through periods of disorientation.
9. They will struggle to adapt to change
Imagine being told you have dementia. Many people would react with fear and shock. Having dementia means you need to take precautionary steps to prepare for increasing symptoms. Adventurous and independent people may see these steps as irrational and as obstacles to living their normal lives.
10. They won’t always remember they love you
This is one of the hardest characteristics of dementia that affects loved ones. Having sparent, grandparents, or siblings forget who you are can be extremely tough to bear. You have to remember that it’s not them, but the symptoms of dementia. Deep down inside they will always love you.
11. They need friendship more than ever
People with dementia can feel isolated because it’s hard to prepare for worsening symptoms, and they may perceive that they’re going through this “journey” alone. Make sure they have constant reminders that you’re there for them and won’t be leaving anytime soon.
12. They are just as uncertain about the future as you are
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or in your late seventies, all of us are uncertain about what the future holds in terms of accomplishing our goals. It’s important we realize that many people with dementia have dreams they still want to achieve, too. Moreover, we should try to help them achieve these dreams before they get discouraged.
13. They are part of the nearly 7.7 million worldwide new cases of dementia each year
In other words, one new case happens every four seconds. This doesn’t mean that people with dementia are just a statistic. What this means is that dementia is a common struggle that millions of people go through. As a result, it’s important to reach out for help and advice from those who have gone through the same struggle.
14. They may not recognize the same sounds as they are used to
The music your loved one once adored now disturbs them, or they’ve suddenly taken an interest in jazz. Finding the right music for someone with dementia can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. The upside is that once you find something that attracts their taste, you’ll more than likely put a smile on their face.
15. They are not carrying a disease
People often confuse dementia as a natural disease that people receive as they age. However, dementia is not natural and not something someone else can give you — it’s just a syndrome. We should strive to educate others about dementia, so they are not scared to help.
16. They may have problems moving
People with dementia can find themselves in prolonged states of immobility. When someone’s confused and struggles to adapt to change, they become fearful; as a result, they decide keep to themselves. What they need is for their loved ones to guide them and help them embrace life no matter how small the baby steps are.
17. They need your encouragement
This sounds obvious, but encouragement is not something that’s always built strong within people, especially after years of helping a loved one with dementia. It can be a huge boulder to carry, so make sure to reach out to those currently caring for someone with dementia.
The number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 75.6 million in 2030, so we must come to terms with it. Even though we can’t prevent dementia, we can still improve our memory. Keeping an active mind, staying away from medication with adverse side effects, not excessively drinking, a good sleep schedule, and maintaining a healthy diet are just a few ways to keep your memory sharp.
Moreover, stay open-minded and if you see someone acting strange, remember that an early diagnosis can help those with dementia tremendously by helping them prepare for the future.