According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, 47 million people are living with dementia. There are about 10 million new cases every year. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to 75 million and almost triple by 2050. Today in Michigan, 240,000 persons have dementia associated with aging, injuries and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Lewy Body.
Based on these statistics, it’s a safe bet that most people will at some point be impacted by a friend or loved one with dementia, if not by their own affliction. Learning more about dementia and memory loss is key to managing the condition and achieving the greatest quality of life for everyone impacted. The following information was prepared to give caregivers and families the basic information they need to understand the condition, develop management skills, and assess different levels of memory care as the condition progresses.
Understanding Memory Loss
It’s a fact of life that for most of us, aging means memory impairment. Forgetting someone’s name or where you left something is normal. Sometimes, however, forgetfulness becomes a real problem. Driving somewhere and forgetting how to find the way home, losing things over and over again, missing appointments or commitments, and having trouble finding the right words are all early signs of dementia and should be taken seriously.
The first thing to do when noticing any of these signs is to see your physician. Aside from aging, injury and diseases, memory loss can also be a side affect of some medicines so that should be ruled out before any other assessments.
Many people with early dementia may think it is just aging and nothing to worry about, so they resist getting a medical diagnosis. In truth, as with most medical conditions, the earlier the diagnosis the better and more effective treatment can be. People with an early diagnosis also have more time to make informed decisions about their lives, explain how they feel and how the condition is responding to treatment, decide what type of long-term care plan is best, and decide what they prefer to do with the time they have left. They can also join self-help groups and participate in therapy that may help extend their quality of life.
If the diagnoses is Alzheimer’s disease, there may be different but similar symptoms to be aware of. Trouble completing common tasks, notable personality changes, and confusion about time and place are just a few of these. Our blog, “Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s – And What to Do Next,” can help you understand what to look for and how to proceed to ensure your loved one receives the help they need.
Find out more about why early diagnosis of dementia is the smartest step to take for patients, families and caregivers in our blog, “The Importance of Early Dementia Diagnosis.”
When Memory Loss Touches Your Family
When someone in your family is diagnosed with early dementia, it may seem like they are fine except for an occasional spell of forgetfulness. When the diagnosis is made later, family may already be wondering how they will cope, what they should or should not do to keep their loved one safe and secure, and many other questions. Often, however, the first question is, “How can we make them understand what we are saying?” The answer to that is, “You can’t.”
Loss of communication is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult results of dementia and can make caring for an afflicted loved one frustrating at best. It takes an enormous amount of patience and time to simply converse with someone with dementia because they slowly but surely lose all of the components necessary to do so, from knowing the right words to remembering names, faces, events, and places that make up the fabric of their lives. The slate of their memory is being swept clean and often results in them avoiding conversation, further isolating themselves.
Everyone coming in contact with a person with dementia should continually remind themselves that what is happening is not a result of a conscious decision on the part of their loved one. More importantly, no amount of anger or threatening language or gestures can make it change. Instead, patience, calm and smiles are the best tools to help the person feel you are there for them, not against them. More simple but effective ways to improve communication with a dementia suffer are described in our blog, “Communicating When Your Loved One Has Dementia.”
Other behaviors are also impacted by dementia and memory loss and can become a threat to the safety of the person with dementia. Among them is wandering, a highly dangerous but common event that can end tragically. Wandering can occur for a number of reasons such as the person believes they are still going to work everyday and tries to do so, or they may think they are expected somewhere for an event that may have happened decades ago. Such behaviors take special attention on the part of caregivers who can learn the basics in our blog, “Do’s and Don’ts When Dealing with Dementia Behavior.”
Again, Alzheimer’s disease poses even greater challenges as the symptoms manifested may be more unsettling and, depending upon how far the disease has progressed, may be more severe. But there are many ways caregivers can help their loved one and themselves meet the challenges and avoid some of the frustration and fear. Read about what to do for a number of common symptoms in our blog, “9 Ways to Manage Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Wandering.”
Research is ongoing and new findings and better ways to help someone with dementia come along often; Just remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Join one of the many caregiver support groups that are available statewide and can be found at alzheimers.net.
Giving the Care They Need
As someone ages and begins to be less cognizant of daily responsibilities, with or without dementia, they may forget to do things like pay bills, keep up with bank accounts and credit card statements, get to doctor’s appointments, and other things that can have very negative effects. At the same time, people may also tend to become less social, feel isolated and begin to lose their independence when no one is there to assist them.
For those reasons and more, it’s important to establish with your parents or other loved ones a routine of caring and burden-sharing so they know they are not alone. By doing this early on, they can make choices about day-to-day maintenance of bills and accounts, and establish critical end-of-life financial decisions like estate planning, wills and power of attorney.
This is also a good time to discuss short- and long-term care, how much longer they should be driving, and other important decisions that need to be made when your loved ones still have the mental capacity to legally choose what’s in their best interest. If you aren’t sure where or when to begin this conversation, our blog, “How to Support Your Aging Parents Financially and Emotionally” can give a starting place.
That’s assuming your parent’s or loved one accept your offer of help. Often the reverse is true and it can become a battle to convince them that they do need assistance and that you want to be there for them. In our blog, “What to Do When Your Aging Parents Refuse Your Help,” we provide some tips for dealing with this situation without undue stress or frustration to help you and them come to a resolution that works for both.
At Home Memory Care
Dementia not only robs a person of their memory, it also brings on a lot of confusion. For that reason, many families prefer to care for their loved one at home, especially when someone is available to be there all the time or at least regularly. For someone with dementia, being in a place that is well-known and comforting, can help them feel less afraid and more able to retain a level of independence. Although it’s sometimes difficult for a non-medical caregiver to determine if at-home care, with or without medical assistance is appropriate and safe, our blog, “When is Home Care the Best Option for Seniors?” answers a lot of questions and can help determine the best care option. If that seems like the best decision, consider resources like our blog "Senior Memory Care: 12 Activities to Keep Your Mind Sharp" for ideas on how to support your loved one with engaging at-home activities.
When a caregiver must be found outside the family or circle of friends, things can get even trickier. How do you know who can be trusted? How often do we need someone? Do we need a medically trained caregiver or just a companion or helper? After you confirm with your loved one’s physician what their mental and physical needs and capabilities are, you have a basis for assessing options. Read our blog, “Tips for Hiring an In-home Care Provider,” to learn other checklist items that can make the process much simpler and easier for everyone.
Considering Assisted Living Memory Care
Even for the most dedicated and loving family, advanced dementia or other related diseases will eventually progress to the point where at-home care is no longer the best option for their loved one. This can also be case with people who only have mild dementia or none at all, but do have physical limitations that also need consideration.
For example, elderly people struggling with dementia or just memory problems may forget to do things like bathe, prepare nutritious meals, or for that matter, buy groceries. Everyday things that they used to do as a matter of habit start to fall by the wayside and they begin to suffer. Bills might not get paid on time or at all, if they’re still driving, maybe there are new bumps or dents in their car, and perhaps they no longer take part in things like church, weekly bingo or other social events they always loved. These are warning signs that should be taken seriously. Learn more about the red flags that signal your loved one may benefit from assisted living in our blog, “Signs It's Time for Assisted Living.”
For those with no assisted living knowledge or experience, our blog, “Do My Parents Need Assisted Living?” can help you and your parents understand the options and the benefits, dispel myths and help you come to the best decision.
Embracing Assisted Living Memory Care
While some people with dementia or memory loss can’t wait to get into a nice assisted living facility and have someone to look after them, others may balk at it or even refuse to go. In our blog, “Easing the Transition to Assisted Living,” we look at some of the tried-and-true ways to make the shift to assisted living much less painful for everyone involved.
Some of the things to think about are keeping the decision a choice for your loved one if possible and always listening to their concerns, even if they may not be rational to you. To them they are real and deserve your respect. As much as possible, seek involvement from your family and your loved one’s friends, both during the decision-making process and after they move in. It is so important that they know they are not forgotten and that can be shown by regular visits and outings. And before you choose the facility, be sure to involve your loved one in the tours and staff interviews, if possible, so they feel they really are in charge of making this huge life decision.
When memory care assisted living is needed, there are a few more things to consider. While early dementia sufferers in assisted living may require help with things like medications and maybe even personal hygiene, those requiring memory care are getting much more specialized assistance from highly trained staff. If you’re not sure about the differences, read our blog, “Six Ways Memory Care Improves Residents’ Quality of Life,” and find out exactly what to expect from a high-quality, professionally staffed memory care assisted living facility.
In addition to long-term memory care assisted living, there are also times and circumstances when a short stay or “respite” is the perfect solution. Perhaps the person has been hospitalized and needs rehabilitation to get back on their feet. Or maybe they have been receiving at-home care but family members need a break or must be gone for work or vacation. Whatever the reason, respite care is a perfect solution. Find out more about the possibilities with respite care in our blog, “When Respite Care is the Perfect Solution.”
Brightside Memory Care
John Gantons’ Brightside Memory Care facility opened in September 2017 bringing state-of the-art memory care services to the greater Jackson area. Brightside offers different levels of care from the most basic to skilled nursing care and provides a number of essential memory care services including:
· Added security
· Enclosed outdoor spaces
· Outstanding dining
· Daily social activities
Find out more about Brightside Memory Care in our blog, “Brightside Memory Care: Our new option” and watch videos from our television appearances at FOX 47 News - Assisted Living is About the Living and Brightside Memory Care Announced on Fox 47.