I want to take this time to thank all those that have supported this column. The many emails and texts have made this column possible and without you it would not be so. I am forever appreciative of everyone that has commented, expressed frustration, appreciation and offered your questions and suggestions and shared stories to help others going through similar situations. My deepest appreciation to you all. May the new year bring blessings that are profound to you all. Happy New Year!
If you’ve been part of our community for a while, I often base my columns on questions I get from emails or texts and even in my caregiving experience that week. Many find it reassuring to know they’re not the only ones facing a particular challenge and it gives caregivers the opportunities to share their experiences, even suggestions from their experience, with each other. Family and professional caregivers alike have wonderful suggestions and it is vital that we work together to support each other.
So as we head into a new year, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask: what is your biggest caregiving challenge? What topics would you like me to write more about and share with others as well as what would you like to learn from other caregivers?
A Reminder of the Differences Between Alzheimer and Dementia
Dementia is a syndrome. It is a collection of symptoms that disrupt a person’s daily life. Below is a list of warning signs developed by the Alzheimer Association in America. However, these symptoms do not mean it is Alzheimer. The symptoms below describe dementia.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial
• New problems with conversation threads
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality
It is recommended that if you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms that you get further evaluation from a doctor or memory professional. Together, the specialist and doctors can determine if the dementia is progressive or a pseudo-dementia.
Pseudo-dementia can be reversed in most cases to allow people to live independently. If progressive, there are other options that can determine the type of progressive dementia it is. This is what Alzheimer is.
Alzheimer is the largest of all dementia types and the most studied, has a general pattern of progression and is fatal. All neuro-progressive dementias are relentless and fatal. The first symptom that occurs with Alzheimer is memory loss for recent events or thoughts. The attacks are caused by bad protein cells and starts in the hippocampus of the brain where memory is first formed. Once the bad protein cells destroy that area it then travels throughout the brain causing the “known different stages of Alzheimer”.
Because memory is its first attack for Alzheimer, the St. Lucia Alzheimer Association (SLADA) encourages memory screening early to detect subtle memory challenges. Prevention is the best cure! If you are having slight problems with memory and pass it off as stress or age, you are at risk for developing dementia. Go for your screening and find out what is causing the memory challenge because this is not normal for your brain. You have an amazing brain that progresses to amazing potentials. Don’t ignore these challenges. Slight memory challenges are reversible with work on your part even if stress is the cause.
Right now, there is no cure for Alzheimer or other dementias if it reaches to middle stages. The damage to the brain is so severe that the best treatment is to slow it down.
A person can grow new healthy brain cells; however, once the bad cells have destroyed the hippocampus, the rapid rate of destruction is faster than the natural rate of growing new cells is in force. Therefore, treatment is all about palliative care. I do believe in miracles at this stage but it does take work on the person with dementia and the person caring for that person. Otherwise, prevention is the best cure.
For those that are diagnosed with dementia, it simply means they do not know the type of dementia they have. It could be Alzheimer, and the doctor just does not know at that time.
Knowing the type of dementia can determine pseudo or progressive for the first phase.
Secondly, for pseudo-dementia, a person can work on the treatment for a cure.
Thirdly, for progressive dementia, families can work on a treatment for palliative care to enrich the person’s life to the fullest in the condition they have. Remember: the person with progressive dementia is still alive and has a right to experience all their human rights without prejudice in an everyday community. They should not be declined any right because of their disability.
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