Much has been written about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Wikipedia sites a definition of dementia as a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning… A dementia diagnosis requires a change from a person’s usual mental functioning and a greater decline than one would expect due to aging.  Their source for this information is “Dementia Fact Sheet No. 362.  “who.int.” April 2012.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.  However, there are many causes including but not limited to Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.  Some causes of dementia including vitamin B-12 deficiency, hypothyroidism and Lyme disease are reversible, however there is no cure for most types of dementia. Ibid; Solomon, Andrew E. Budson, Paul R. (2011) “Memory Loss: a practical guide for clinicians”. (Edinburgh) ISBN 9781416035978. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, language, depression, wandering, losing one’s attention span and difficulty with problem solving.

Stages of dementia include mild cognitive impairment in which symptoms are just beginning to show, and early stages where symptoms are beginning to interfere with daily activities because of forgetfulness and difficulty with finding words, getting lost and problems with organizational skills.  Middle stage dementia includes worsening of the above symptoms to the point where the patient  requires assistance for personal care including hygiene.  Middle stage dementia patients should not be left alone.  Late stage dementia patients need assistance with all of their personal care.  They usually need 24-hour supervision to ensure their safety and that their basic needs are met.  Changes in eating occur and they usually need a pureed or thickened liquid diet, assistance in eating, and usually breathing assistance.

If your loved one is showing any signs of dementia, it is important that you see his or her doctor as soon as possible.  While there is no cure for most of the causes,  there are many research projects available to participate in once the cause is determined.  The Alzheimer’s Association has an extensive library on their website and we encourage you to peruse it.  There is also a 24 hour hotline thru the Alzheimer’s Association.  Counselors are available to talk with you about any concerns you have.

Once you have determined the cause of your loved one’s problems, give us a call.  We will be happy to assist you in planning both a short term and long term plan of care to keep your loved one safe and happy and give relief to family members who are responsible for the care of that person.