As we age, many of us joke about “going senile” if we start forgetting or repeating things, but dementia is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe the symptoms that people with brain disorders or damage may have with memory, thinking, and language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 60-80% of Americans with dementia.
A person suffering from dementia may:
- Exhibit recent memory loss, such as asking a question repeatedly without remembering having asked it
- Have difficulty with everyday tasks
- Have problems communicating, such as forgetting words or using incorrect words
- Feel disoriented in time and place, which can include getting lost in a familiar area or forgetting how he or she got there
- Misplace items and forget them
- Have mood or personality changes
If you notice any of these changes in a loved one, take note of the behavior and consult a doctor. There are tests your doctor can perform that can gauge the patient’s language abilities, orientation to time and place, and attention. Though there is no known cure, dementia can be managed by treating symptoms or even slowing the progression of the disorder.
Caring for someone with dementia takes an understanding of the problems he or she faces from the disorder. Unfortunately, there are several myths about dementia that make it difficult to know what your loved one is going through.
Just a few myths debunked:
Myth: People with dementia don’t know what is happening.
Fact: It is easy to assume that because a person with dementia is not communicative, he or she does not understand what is happening around him or her; however, the part of the brain that handles communication is not the same as the part that handles awareness. Even if your loved one is having issues communicating, he or she likely still has thoughts that he or she would like to communicate and understands his or her situation.
Myth: People with dementia are incompetent.
Fact: Competency depends upon the stage of dementia your loved one is in. Most dementia patients in early stages are capable of making many personal decisions, so there must be a balance between independence and reliance.
Myth: You should correct people with dementia when they are wrong.
Fact: Correcting someone with dementia is not generally necessary and, if done consistently, can lead to feelings of depression, aggression, or even further confusion.
Myth: People with dementia are violent.
Fact: Though aggression can occur in dementia patients, it is a sign that something is making the patient uncomfortable or upset. Being tolerant, communicating with the patient, and taking notes on your loved one’s behavior can help reduce instances of aggression.