Mental Illness And Dementia


Q: Do people with dementia have mental illness?

A: This is a very common misconception. Dementia itself is not mental illness. Although as part of the disease process, psychiatric behaviours may be experienced by some people with Alzheimer’s. And some of these symptoms may be accompanied by co-existing conditions such as anxiety or depression. Psychiatric and behavioural symptoms, such as agitation, intense anxiety, and paranoid thoughts, may be treated with medications. The stroke Association.org reports “Before concluding that a symptom requires treatment with medications, it is important to rule out other causes. A behaviour, such as agitation, may have a variety of causes other than a psychiatric condition, such as, pain, hunger, constipation, or side effects of medication. If agitation is caused by pain, the solution would be to seek to identify and treat the cause of the pain.” And a good example would be: A patient with limited communication skills related to her stroke, appeared agitated and irrational when screaming out help repeatedly. The truth was that the patient had a serious infection and was in pain. The behaviour was a normal response to her condition, given her limited communication skills.

Q: My mom has early middle stage Alzheimer’s and sometimes she seems so right on the target, is this normal? In fact a lot of friends and family think she is making up her condition.

A: If she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s early in the disease, it is common for others to not see the actual disease in the person as the symptoms come and go in the beginning. Symptoms will vary day to day for very different reasons in all stages.

Q: My friend was recently diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, how do I respond to her when she is slow to respond or find that word she is looking for?

A: This is hard for many of us. Try to understand that she will take longer to process what you are saying, give her time to answer you. Allow her to feel comfortable to take her time. If she feels you are impatient or irritated she may choose to avoid seeing you so she doesn’t have to feel bad. This is where some people with dementia become depressed and isolate themselves as they cannot keep up with friends and family. It is important that we give people time to be as independent as they can. This will help them remain with their dignity.

Q: What do I say when my mom ask when is (diseased) dad coming home? When I tell her he died many years ago, she becomes upset sometimes and other times it seems she gets it, but then she will ask for him again.

A: The question and answer is probably harder on you than your mom. Although, telling her that he has passed, is causing needless stress for her. She will not always remember the answer. Say things such as: “He would love to be here today but he is not coming tonight” or “I haven’t seen him” or “It would be nice to see him.” These are positive comforting replies without lying. Talk about a memory of him that she may relate to or ask her to tell you about him.

Q: I feel so ashamed that I yelled at my dad the other day for repeating a question. I just do not like to get upset with him, I know it is not his fault. What can I do about this built up frustration?

A: First, you are a wonderful caregiver and this is common. True we do not want to express our frustration to our loved one. You mention a build-up, so this is your sign to nurture you. 1) You may be due for a break. So do something for yourself for “you-time.” 2) It is best to express your frustration to a trusted friend (confidant). Realize that a good person may become impatient at times. 3) Join a support group where others are experiencing similar situations as you. You can vent without judgement and help others with your own story, or what has helped you. There are many groups on facebook that support dementia.

Next Support Meeting by Angels of the West Indies is changed to August 8th, 2015. Workshop training continues in July as planned.

Laughing is heart&soul healthy: The good thing about Alzheimer’s Disease is that you get to meet new people every day.
Send questions to [email protected] or 758-486-4509

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