Many people worry about their memory as they age. How do you determine if forgetfulness is dementia or normal aging?
I would like to introduce my guest blogger. Diane Keefe, is a geriatric care manager, author, & talk show host. Visit www.caringforparentstogether.com to learn more about her service!
Is it Demential or Normal Aging
Many older adults worry about the subtle changes taking place in their memory recall as they age. Memory processing in older adults does slow with aging. There may be increased difficulty concentrating or focusing with distractions and less efficient processing or storage of new information. Multi-tasking will be more difficult. Many older adults have experienced difficulty with recall of names, places or events. Just as other parts of the body are slowing down, so does the brain. It doesn’t mean that the older adult loses the information being recalled, just that it takes longer to retrieve.
What Makes Dementia Different?
Dementia impairs an individual’s ability to handle normal daily activities and social relationships. Family members may note a lack of awareness that their loved one has forgotten something. Older adults may forget recently learned information or experience personality changes; they may have difficulty performing familiar tasks or become easily disoriented. Judgment becomes impaired. Loved ones may notice a loss of initiative. Depression and head injury can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. There are over 60 different types of dementia, the largest percentage being Alzheimer’s disease.
Looks like Alzheimer’s but Isn’t
There can be many reasons for dementia that have nothing to do with a permanent condition. Certain medications or medication interactions can bring on cognitive confusion. Urinary tract infections often cause dementia or delirium and sleep apnea. Medical professionals will test to eliminate a possible disease condition that could mimic dementia. If dementia is suspected, it is critical to be tested as soon as possible so that the condition can be treated or reversed. With Alzheimer’s disease, the sooner the treatment, the longer an individual stays in the mild impairment category.
In many senior facilities, there is a prevalence of people with dementia. In Missouri assisted living facilities, they must be able to meet a pathway to safety with 3 minimal cues or the facility must have an ALF2 designation which means that there is a room that residents can be taken to for safety until the fire is contained. In state regulated facilities, over 40% of residents had Alzheimer’s or other dementias according to the Centers for Disease Control. Residents with dementia will need extra cueing in order to participate in activities or come to meals. They will probably need more assistance with medication management, incontinence and housekeeping. In short, their care will be more labor intensive and costly. The family caregiver can manage care by visiting frequently; being observant to the resident’s needs and communicating them to the floor nurse or in Care Plan meetings.
What You Can Do to Be Proactive
What can individuals do to protect their brain capacity? The brain uses up to 25% of the oxygen in the body. Therefore, exercise will increase the oxygen available to the brain. Good nutrition is also important in maintaining healthy brain functioning. Keeping the brain active is critical. Reading stimulates many different areas of the brain; creative activities, learning new skills and participating in word games are effective ways of exercising the brain. For the dementia or Alzheimer’s resident, participation in activities designed for someone with dementia is crucial to maintaining what is left of the brain. Social activities have also been shown to greatly improve well-being.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a great source of information and support for persons with different types of dementia. Their hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1.800.272.3900. For other supportive resources, check www.alz.org and type in your zip code.
Diane Keefe is a professional Geriatric Care Manager, author of Blueprint for Care/A Guide to Managing Care for Your Loved One book and workbook, talk show host on www.blogtalkradio.com/dianekeefe/, with a mission to educate and support family caregivers who are caring for aging parents. She helped care for a mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Visit www.caringforparentstogether.com website and sign up for her free webinar.