As modern medicine helps keep our bodies healthy for longer, we have begun to understand how the brain ages. More people than ever have been affected by forms of dementia in recent decades. Between 1990 and 2016, dementia cases more than doubled from 20.2 million to 43.8 million. A third of older Americans now have some form of dementia when they die, and deaths related to Alzheimer’s have increased by 89 percent from 2000 to 2014. As America’s population continues to age, it will become even more critical to work toward finding the best care for patients with dementia. For Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month this June, let’s take some time to explore the wide-reaching effects of dementia and what we can do for loved ones with cognitive changes.
What Is Alzheimer’s, and What Causes It?
Dementia is not a single disease. Instead, it’s a word that describes a set of symptoms that can arise from many different conditions. Symptoms of dementia often include difficulty concentrating or problem-solving, memory loss, confusion, or general thinking abilities. Dementia can also result in personality changes, mood swings, and paranoia.
Alzheimer’s is the most well-known and common type of dementia, but many more exist. Different types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Vascular Dementia.
- Dementia With Lewy Bodies.
- Frontotemporal Dementia
- Huntington’s Disease.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Changes in the brain often associated with aging cause all types of dementia. Though the causes of dementia can vary, they all relate to damaged brain cells that struggle to communicate as efficiently with each other, thus impacting cognitive ability. One factor which can affect a person’s likelihood of developing dementia is genetics. Lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet, exercise, and cognitive stimulation, may also help reduce a person’s chance of developing a form of dementia.
Unfortunately, there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Though treatments for dementia remain limited, some drug tests have helped delay the progress of symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients. While dementia may be impossible to cure and challenging to treat, that doesn’t mean that people with dementia can’t continue to maintain their quality of life.
Care for Patients With Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias
All types of dementia can sharply impact a person’s ability to care for themselves. Most people with Alzheimer’s will need a long-term caregiver to help them with daily tasks, likely for the rest of their lives. In many cases, a family member might decide to take on caregiving responsibilities for a loved one with dementia. The following are typical responsibilities for family caregivers:
Bathing, grooming, and toileting. People with dementia may not be able to properly dress, brush their teeth and hair, use the bathroom, or bathe. It can be helpful for family caregivers to buy their loved ones loose-fitting and stretchy clothing to make it easier to help them get dressed and undressed. A shower chair is another helpful tool to prevent falls in the shower. Overall, it’s best to let your loved ones do as much as they can by themselves, but don’t be afraid to step in if they need help.
Preparing meals. People with dementia may struggle with meal planning, grocery shopping, or preparing food. Serving consistent meals at the same time of day is a good way to maintain a sense of expectation and routine.
Administering and keeping track of medication. If your loved one is on multiple prescriptions, it’s not easy to stay on top of them all. Dividing medication into daily pillboxes and writing down when each medicine should be taken is helpful.
Maintaining quality of life. Helping with enrichment, going for walks, or arranging other favorite activities can help your loved one maintain their quality of life. However, one of the most important things to do as a family caregiver is to practice patience and emphasize respect.
Family Caregiving Is Tough
Taking on duties as a family caregiver is a noble and often rewarding task. However, it can also take a heavy toll. Family caregivers often struggle emotionally while caring for a loved one, both from the stress of caregiving and from watching a loved one decline. In 2018 unpaid caregivers provided 18.4 billion hours of care, valued at over $232 billion. Many caregivers also must put their careers aside to stay with a loved one full time. If you have a family member with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, working with an in-home caregiver could help you balance your own needs and give your loved one the best care.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.