Dementia is said to be one of the leading causes of death among the Australians, Brits and the Americans as it contributes to more than 5.5% of death among makes and more than 12% of all the deaths among females. In fact 3 years back, in 2016, dementia was considered to be the leading cause of death among women in Australia and the disease exceeded heart issues which have always been the main cause of death in both females and men since the 20th century. While there are 449, 877 Aussies who are already living with dementia, without any kind of revolutionary change brought about in the medical field, there is no such noteworthy change expected in the progression of this disease.
If you think of the impact of dementia on these nations, it has costed Australia more than $18 billion and experts predict that by the end of 2025, the total cost of dementia will increase to more than $19 billion dollars and might cross $40 billion by the time it’s 2056. Did you know that dementia is the single biggest cause of all the disability that is there among the senior Aussies who are above 65 years of age? Hence, with such startling and sad statistics, what is the solution?
Dementia – What is it?
If your mom has been lately diagnosed with dementia, you needn’t fret as there are ways and techniques that you have to adopt as her caregiver which can make things manageable. To educate you more on dementia, let us tell you that dementia is a disease that is caused in the human brain when the brain is damaged by several other diseases. Dementia is a progressive disease which clearly means that the symptoms and signs will get worse with time. Keeping in mind the current treatments, they’re just appropriate for few types of dementia.
Dementia can have its impact on anyone, irrespective of his gender, class, ethnic group, professional background, education or anything else. Scientists confirm that there is no cure to dementia but the caregivers can certain seek help of the professional home care services and also take steps on their own to prevent matters from getting worse and uncomfortable.
An explanation of the different causes of dementia – Educate yourself
When you’re playing the role of a caregiver for your mom, it can be indeed terrifying and heartbreaking to see your loved ones (especially if it is your mom and dad) forgetting their most-cherished memories or not being able to recognize the people who are closest to them (including you). As per a study by the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of caregivers for the adults above the age of 50 are taking care of someone who is either suffering from dementia or from some type of cognitive impairment. This is a data that is sobering enough and there’s also hope that once you get to know the causes of the disease and the signs of illness, you can better take care of them during their golden years. Read on.
Links between genetics and dementia
There are times when the caregivers of the patient and the patient too think what they could have done in some other way to have been able to prevent the disease from occurring. However, it is necessary for you to note that dementia can occur due to several innate causes over which we have very little control. In fact, it has been proved that few of the common kinds of dementia are linked with other diseases which have a genetic reason. There are studies which indicated that there are several genetic risk factors for developing the disease called Alzheimer’s which is a condition which leads to a gradual decline in cognition.
Moreover, there are other causes of dementia which have been directly linked to genetics which include another disease called Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that it is not our genes which lead to dementia but they just increase the vulnerability of you being affected by the condition which causes dementia.
Links between head trauma and dementia
It is again important for you to know that there are different physical injuries like brain tumors, brain injury, deprivation of oxygen to the brain and your brain’s exposure to heavy metals which can also lead to dementia. Boxer’s dementia or dementia pugilistica is a result of the repetitive trauma that is caused to the heads of boxers. The disease dementia can be either caused by a damage or swelling of the direct tissue, fluid collection and infection of the tissue.
Nevertheless, the good news is that in few cases, the pace at which mental decline occurs can be either slowed down or stopped if the symptoms are addresses pretty soon before they start progressing. In such cases, caregivers require being aware of the various physical causes of dementia and also seek help of medical attention as soon as they find the changes occurring to their behavior.
How are different diseases linked to dementia?
Apart from the widely known relation between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, you will rather be surprised to note that there are other diseases too which may cause this degenerative disease. Each of them has got their unique issues and here are some that you may take into account.
- AD or Alzheimer’s Disease: This is again being listed at the top because it is undoubtedly the most common type which accounts for two-thirds of all dementia cases. Tangles and clumps of proteins start developing in the brain cells which start to interfere with the normal functioning of the brain. This starts off in the reasoning and memory center of the brain and then spreads to the cerebral cortex which is the ‘thinking’ part of human brain. This kind of dementia is not curable.
- Vascular Dementia: When your arteries get narrowed or blocked, this too can lead to brain damage which is usually a result of stroke. Here too, the damage that is caused to the brain is not curable but if you opt for the best possible treatment of the main underlying condition which led to the stroke, this can stop the progression of vascular dementia. If you’re concerned about the symptoms, this will depend entirely on the part of the brain which has been damaged.
- Lewy Body Dementia (LBD): There are round-shaped structures of protein which often start developing amongst the brain cells, disrupting the way they function normally. Researchers and scientists have still not been able to understand the cause of this development. LBD is also considered as the second-most common cause of dementia and it accounts for 30-40% of all cases,
- Frontotemporal dementia: This type of dementia is where the frontal lobes of the brain start degenerating, thereby setting an impact on the judgmental power of a person and a decline in his social behavior. The person’s personality will go through a heavy change. Though this disease is rare in prevalence among all other dementia cases, yet it is the second-leading reason behind dementia, especially among those who are less than 65 years of age.
Links between stroke and dementia
Doctors are also of the opinion that strokes can also be a reason behind developing dementia. A stroke in general damages the blood vessels and bars nutrients and oxygen from entering your brain. This type is called vascular dementia and it is a sort of impairment which might not be curable and which can also exist along with Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers need to be more alert about the symptoms of stroke and the risk factors for VD including high blood pressure and diabetes. If seniors can maintain a healthy heart, they can often ward off vascular dementia with proper exercise and diet.
Potential treatment options for dementia
Now that you are aware of the causes of dementia, you must be eager to know how dementia can be treated. Here are the few treatment options you should know of:
- Drug Treatments
Currently, there are 4 types of drug treatments for dementia that are available but they are not perfect for all sorts of dementia that are mentioned above. Nevertheless, the clinician who is diagnosing will tell you about which drugs are suitable for which kind of dementia. If your loved one has got several symptoms during the time of diagnosis or after the disease has been diagnosed, they can get treatments which are typically meant for them. The doctor might then treat health issues like high blood pressure, depression or cholesterol.
- Treatments not related to drugs
This kind of treatment is like an alternative to the drug therapy and this can be offered along with a variety of other non-drug treatments. Such treatments can range from CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, therapy through music, life story analysis, dance and art, sensory, reminiscence, animal massage, acupuncture, reflexology and aromatherapy. If you see that your loved one is not being offered any non-drug treatment post dementia diagnosis, you might require researching the best therapists in your locality. Watch out for advertisements through which you can find dedicated therapists.
- Maintaining the balance of medication
With the aging population, there are many people who are diagnosed with dementia and who might also be living with various other conditions like heart issues and diabetes. If it is your mom who is suffering from this kind of disease, she might be taking different medicines without understanding the way the medicines react. In case your mom is taking more than 4 medicines, it is vital to make sure that all the medicines are reviewed. The side-effects also need to be discussed with your doctor.
Creating a dementia-friendly environment in your home
One of the most vital ways to support your mom if she is suffering from dementia is by designing a dementia-friendly environment. Before you jump with the changes, talk to your mom so that you get to know what is working for her and what isn’t. Don’t make multiple changes in one go as this can add to the confusion. Few key ideas to discuss are:
- A recognizable and noteworthy interior design where you include the life story of the loved one with signs along with words and pictures can be worthy. Use various soothing colors to help with understanding. You can color the loo seats with red, the meal plates with blue and also the frames of the door and edges of stairs.
- You can add instruction signs that can help your mom with completing tasks like walking into the shower. Arrange from a dementia-friendly click which has got reminders which can remind them of meal times and medicine times. Don’t purchase anything new as this can add to her confusion.
- Add a cover to all sorts of surfaces which are reflective, lay consistent flooring which is plan and don’t install rugs and mats as they can look like a hole in the floor. Remove any bold pattern as they can distract your loved one. All these factors are followed by specialist dementia care services that you often seek help of when you’re not able to do things on your own.
- Enhance natural light in the rooms so that you can reduce shadows and glare. When you plan the bedroom for your mom, be careful about avoiding light pollution, minimizing and eliminating all sorts of echo-producing places and doing away with noise pollution too. Set the maximum volume of radios and TV so that your mom doesn’t get startled by sudden loud noise from any source.
So, if you’re living with a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, you need to work on your patience as things might get worse as the disease progresses within. Pay attention to even the smaller signs and symptoms which might otherwise become negligible as this is the only way in which you can address her concerns as soon as possible and get them treated.