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What is Dementia?
By Rebekah Alcalde
Have you noticed your mom or dad forgetting little things here or there? It’s normal to get distracted sometimes, but if it’s becoming a pattern, it could be a sign of dementia — a general term for the decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. It’s usually progressive, worsening as time goes on and. The term dementia is a general one, since it’s not a specific disease, more so a wide range of symptoms associated with mental decline.
To be considered dementia, individuals will show signs of impairments in at least two of these core mental functions: memory, communication and language, ability to focus, reasoning and judgment and visual perception. It’s caused by damage to brain cells, which impacts their communication with each other.
You’re probably familiar with Alzheimer’s, which actually the most common form of dementia is, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent its cases. The second most common type is vascular dementia, which can occur after a stroke since the brain was deprived of oxygen and nutrients.
In rare cases, some symptoms of dementia are reversible, such as those caused by thyroid issues and vitamin deficiencies. Many people will incorrectly call dementia “senility,” or rather say someone is going “senile” with old age, but dementia is not a normal, inevitable part of aging.
Things to Keep in Mind
If your loved one has begun having problems with short term memory, like forgetting to pay bills, and having problems keeping track of their wallet, planning or cooking meals and forgetting appointments (and this is unusual behavior for them), it could be a sign. Most forms of dementia are progressive and will worsen with time, so don’t ignore small indicators.
It’s always best to consult a doctor if you’ve begun noticing signs. There’s a chance the symptoms have been brought on by a treatable condition. Even if it’s not, your loved one will benefit from earlier intervention and treatment, and you will have more time to plan (hopefully together before it’s too late).
If your love one has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s best to start thinking about what’s next. Where they will live, if or when they will move, and who will help are good topics to start. You will also need to designate a Power of Attorney (guardian) if you have not done so already, since one day they may not be able to make informed decisions for themselves. To gain POA, you’ll need to prove your loved one is incapacitated and your own ability to be a competent guardian.
As you make plans, don’t forget to include your loved ones in the conversation as much as possible and try not to get too frustrated by their confusion or resistance. It’s overwhelming to not know if or when you can’t take care of yourself. As with most difficult conversations, compassion and patience are always the best approaches.