Dementia is a broad term used to describe a multitude of conditions and diseases that occur when nerve cells in the brain start functioning abnormally or completely die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of Dementia. It is ultimately fatal because eventually they cannot even perform basic bodily functions such as ambulating and swallowing. There is no cure or treatment for this disease, however, there are drugs that may improve symptoms temporarily.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In fact, every 68 seconds another American develops Alzheimer’s disease. It is projected that by 2050, that statistic will raise to every 33 seconds. Today, there are no survivors of this disease. If you do not die from it, you die with it. Alzheimer’s the only cause of death among the top ten in America without a way to prevent it, cure it, or even slow its progression.
There are common signs of Alzheimer’s that you can look for in your loved one. They include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in problem-solving
- Difficulty in completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time and place
- New problems with speaking and writing
- Misplacing things/ Inability to retrace steps
- Poor judgment or decision making
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
For patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, we teach our caregivers different types of therapies to use to help our client’s maintain as much independence as possible. In the early stages of dementia, Reality Orientation therapy can be very beneficial. The use of clocks, calendars, and lists assists the client in staying connected to reality and remembering who and where they are. However, as the client continues to decline, Validation therapy will become more useful. Validation therapy focuses on promoting comfort, decreasing agitation, and providing the client with a good sense of self worth. We stop trying to reorient the client and we allow them to believe they are living in past or imaginary times. This can also allow us to learn more about our clients and continue to make them as comfortable as possible.
Symptoms are generally most apparent after a major stroke. Dr. Keith Roach says “The dementia caused by vascular disease may look much like Alzheimer’s disease, but the progression tends to be different. In Alzheimer’s disease, dementia progresses almost imperceptibly, but in vascular dementia, there usually is a sudden worsening, followed by a time of stability.” Sudden post stroke changes include:
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Vision Loss
We cannot heal the damage the stroke has left, but we can prevent the client from having another. By following a healthy, low fat diet, limiting alcoholic drinks, keeping blood pressure lower than 130/80, and taking antiplatelet drugs we can reduce the risk of strokes. Our caregivers are trained to support our client’s with Parkinson’s by:
- Removing safety hazards in the home
- Managing behavior problems
- Reducing agitation