Let's talk about the big D!
An important issue for too many Americans!
Just to start off, I feel it necessary to say that I was hired by a large local company that manages Nursing Homes, in the Spring of 1991, where I worked on a dementia unit. This is an ailment that is close to my heart and one I am passionate about. I have done much research and training over the years and currently work with dementia patients. I hope to release a book and a series of videos about how to deal with someone who is afflicted with it, someday.
What is Dementia? Dementia is a condition that causes loss of brain/cognitive function. There are many different causes and treatments for dementia.Sometimes caused by a disease, a stroke, or aging, Dementia causes memory loss, and a disruption in normal thinking patterns. It can also cause behavioral issues, severe confusion, depression, and impaired judgement and communication. A person with Dementia will always change and the degree of how much depends on the type of Dementia, it's cause, and of course, the severity. Since there are so many causes, there is not one "silver bullet" to treating this condition. Sometimes the cognition loss is temporary and can be reversed, and sometimes it is permanent and progressive.
Some who have lousy memories and are not exactly teenagers may not have any form of dementia at all. Have you ever packed for a trip and ran out the door thinking that you had forgotten something? Maybe you did forget something and it was important. We all have! That is called stress and having a lot on your mind. Worrying about memory loss makes it worse.
The most common causes-There are so many different causes, from Allzheimer's, to Parkinson's, to Lewy Body, Alcohol induced, M.S. Diabetes,Picks, HIV/AIDS, some toxicities, Lyme Disease,Huntington Disease, Brain tumors/Injuries, low B 12 levels, and so on. Sometimes, "old age" causes the brain to break down, thus causing dementia.
Who is at the greatest risk?- We would all guess or assume that the elderly would have to be the choice here. But are they? I have seen many people in their 90's that have all of their cognitive abilities still in tact, while many in their 50's and 60's do not.
So, here are those that I consider to be of great risk. Those with-
Traumatic Brain Injuries- Talk to your doctors about reducing the risk.
Poor diets-Stop eating foods with preservatives, and toss out all aluminum utensils and pots
It in the family- This is sad but true!
Have had anesthesia several or many times.Watch this one!
Graduate degrees, and brilliant people- There is truth to this! Many who are brilliant doctors, professors, and other professionals are afflicted with Alzheimer's especially. When you use your brain at a very high level and then retire, you have to keep the frontal lobe active! If not, it will deteriorate first and then the disease will spread. Read about this more below!
What can be done about it? I like to talk about prevention. treatment's goal is to reverse some cases, but to slow down most. I say that prevention is just as important. Here is what I have learned so far. It is crucial to do the following if you are at risk for dementia: Start taking vitamin E and either brewer's yeast or a B complex(I favor brewers yeast tablets), cut out preservatives and canned food, start reducing your stress, exercise, and perharps the most important, exercise your mind! Here are two ways to exercise your brain.1. Join a reading or peotry club, or any group, live or online that will give you the opportunity to read or research something that you will later be expected to report on. Why reading and studying exercise one pert of the brain, but interpreting and explaining or teaching it, exercises another part...the frontal lobe. Alzheimer's and some other types of dementias, start in the frontal lobe and then spread. Therefore it is the fronal lobe that you want to expand by using in a different way than you normally do. try to interpret information knew to you. For example,if you are a history teacher, take up sports writing or health care/disease trement. 2. This will sound silly, but it works. Start taking items that you use but not urently, and start leaving them in different places that you are used to. Make your memory expand, exercise it. Put your current book, pens, coffee cup etc. in new places constantly. Instead of habits finding them for you, your memory will need to. If you rely on your brain, since it is a muscle, it will grow and get stronger. It is time to start making that happen!
Proper Treatment- Obviously, the best course to take first, in my opinion is to find a neurologist that is reputable, and willing to take their time with you! it is important that you find one who not only is an expert on dementia, but will also listen to your concerns about side effects, and regression! many doctors prescribe Aricept without explaining the serious side effects of it, and without seeing what medications the patient is on that interact poorly with it. I have worked with many people on Aricept and I will tell you that you will want to research this before you let a doctor put you or a loved one on it. Many patients with Dementia have been placed on it and then are quickly taken off of it. Please go online to find out why and to get more information.
Advise for caregivers- A. How to handle a family member, friend or client with Dementia- People with dementia can not help some or any of what they are doing. Try to accept that! Yelling at them and chewing them out when they wander does not help. It will only upset them and they may not even understand what you are upset about. Here are some examples: 1. I was at Wegmans getting groceries and saw a lady who was very confused. Her Dementia was obvious. She wandered out of line and was lost and confused. her husband came running over, grabbed her by the arm and said "how many times have I told you to stay with me and not to wander off". She had no idea that she worried him, that she wandered. In fact she had no clue of where she was and where her husband was! I could see that from a mile away. When I said sometime to him, he told me "she always does this crap!". My response was, your yelling and yanking her back in line hasn't worked yet? Well, it won't work tomorrow either! She knows that you are yelling at her, and probably nothing more.
2. I was working on a dementia unit at a nursing home, and a lady who had been greatly afflicted was sitting at a table in the dining room. An aide that had no business working with this population put a picture of water on the table with no glass. So, the resident drank from the picture. The aide lost their temper, ripped the picture away and said "how dare you, now you aren't getting any water for the rest of the day". What should the aide have done? Gently pour her some water in a glass and say here this will work better for you, and dump out the pitcher. Having to get another pitcher of water is a tiny matter. Upsetting someone in the last year or so, of their life and causing them to become angry is not! This is partially why people with Dementia become aggressive. First, stay calm. Then use a sense of humor to defuse everything. Relax, they are doing little or no harm, in the examples I sited.
B. How to handle yourself- You must start to see yourself as the key to everything associated with your loved one's care! You and your well being may very well make or break the situation. You owe it to them and yourself to be at your best and to take care of yourself. If you are giving up hope or are feeling like you are all alone, then the time for a serious change has come! First, start taking time to do the things that bring you joy (ie. hobbies, music, funny movies or videos etc.). Then, join a local or online support group. This may be very hard. why? It will require you to ask for help from others in order to get time away. You may also need to look for a day program or paid caregiver for your loved one. You are serving everyone better if you do so! Next, try to make yourself and your loved one(s) nutritious meals with a nice desert. Also, if you have Spiritual beliefs, you should lean on them heavily and on those you share them with. Remember, you are very important, so make a commitment to do what you need to in order to let the stress and any attitudes that arise, fall by the way side. Care givers can have fun. It may be time to learn how!
Please feel free to leave comments and questions for me.
- Alzheimer's Disease- HOW TO PREVENT IT!
How to handle this awful disease.