by | May 8, 2023

Understanding dementia: How your diagnosis may impact your life

Dementia affects about 55 million people worldwide and sees about 10 million new cases each year. A cure has yet to be discovered for the various types, but there are treatments that can help those who have been diagnosed. Keeping the mind active is one of the most important practices. These kinds of activities can include arts, crafts, and reminiscing.

The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia and Frontotemporal. Some individuals may experience more than one, known as a mixed dementia. Each type can damage the brain in different ways producing its own set of symptoms. 

Those who are diagnosed may have a hard time understanding or communicating through language, difficulties with problem solving, and struggles completing cognitive tasks and other behavioral disturbances. Additionally, patients may experience impaired visual spatial skills that can hinder one’s ability to drive safely. This disease can cause a person to struggle with day-to-day life skills. 

Understanding dementia

There are five stages of dementia that doctors and healthcare professionals use to determine how an individual is currently affected by this disorder. Based on a patient’s stage, a family can further understand the symptoms they are experiencing and what’s next in treatment.

Stage One: No Impairment

Those diagnosed may experience occasional lapses in memory, thought or reasoning but daily life is not affected by symptoms.

Stage Two: Questionable Impairment

Lapses in memory are still only occasional and overall judgements remain sound. While personal care and daily tasks are not yet disrupted, a patient may become frustrated when navigating complex problems or situations that require quick decisions. 

Stage Three: Mild Impairment

If your loved one did not suspect they had dementia before, this is the stage where it will likely be discovered and diagnosed. Personal care, hygiene, housework, and important events may be forgotten. This means bills may not be paid and medications may not be taken. Directions, time, and geography often cause confusion due to disorientation. Dementia care is highly recommended at this stage.

Stage Four: Moderate Impairment

Seniors who remain at home will need dementia care to remain safe. By stage four, patients may not remember where they are or what they are doing. Social interactions may continue on a limited basis, but they will require support since short-term memory is almost entirely gone by the end of stage four.

Stage Five: Severe Impairment

Profound memory loss and an inability to function without assistance is the highlight of this stage. Time, space and geography will have little meaning, and the individual will need help caring for their personal needs. This includes toileting, bathing, dressing and eating. Dementia care will typically extend into 24-hour home care. 

A part-time or full-time caregiver, whether it is a professional or a loved one, can help an individual with dementia from being put in harm’s way. The safety of your loved one is a top priority and this begins with setting up the home. 

Caregivers can look around and assess from the flooring to the appliances and even the locks. Using high contrast colors in flooring and furniture will help your loved one navigate the space in their home safely and with less frustrations. Appliances and locks on doors can pose safety hazards that can lead to harm for a patient or others. 

It is important to enjoy the time with your loved one where they are at in this journey. You will both have good and bad days. Give yourself grace with your emotions and theirs. This disease may strip your loved one of aspects of their personality and dignity, but they won’t lose their emotions. Your Patient’s Advocate can help in the education to help you in the journey and help your loved one maintain dignity and their best life possible on this journey.

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