Dementia describes a decline in mental abilities
Many people believe that dementia is a specific health condition, but it’s actually a term that doctors use to describe when someone has two or more problems with mental functions.
People with dementia may have problems with mental functions such as:
- Problem solving
- Motor skills
People with dementia may also have changes in personality. A person with dementia may become more paranoid, get angry easily or hallucinate. Once someone has two or more of these problems, they are described as having dementia.
What causes dementia?
Dementia can be caused by brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia, or by changes in the brain from a stroke or injury. In these circumstances, dementia cannot be reversed, though some medicines may help slow down dementia.
Some other causes of dementia may be reversed. For instance, not getting enough nutrients in your diet can cause dementia-like symptoms. Thyroid problems , infections or brain tumors may also cause dementia symptoms. Treatment for these conditions can help people get back the mental functions they had lost.
If you or a loved one has symptoms of dementia, a doctor can help you determine the cause of the symptoms and find the right treatment.
Care for people with dementia
People with dementia may not be able to take care of themselves. They may not be able to:
- Remember to eat
- Take a shower
- Use the restroom by themselves
- Take medications correctly
People with dementia do well when each day follows a certain routine. If possible, add structure to their day by letting them perform the same tasks in the same order and at the same time. Include these activities on a calendar to help them keep track of the day and week.
When talking with a person with dementia, try to be as understanding as possible. Be reassuring when they express fears. Speak simply and clearly. Questioning and disagreeing with people with dementia can make them more confused or angry. If possible, ignore the need to correct them or find out what they mean.
Try to keep the home safe by removing clutter and objects that make confusing or distracting noise, and by keeping lights on so the person does not become disoriented.
As dementia progresses, people may lose more and more of their abilities. It’s important for family members to prepare for the future and discuss when and if extra care is needed.
Care for caregivers
Caring for a loved one with dementia is very stressful. Always be sure to take care of yourself and your needs. Find support in your community through a caregiver support group or by finding other caregivers who understand you.
Don’t be afraid to take a break from care. Ask others to help cover care duties or find places that offer respite care or adult day care. Some nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities offer short-term care for patients, to help give caregivers a break from their duties.