Some of the challenges faced by residents of Anamosa and elsewhere who have loved ones dealing with different types of dementia is how to understand and describe what’s going on, including when or if they might need hospice care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is always happy to help patients and their families with answers and find accurate information about the different types of dementia, and how it affects people and where to seek community resources.
We know the ideas of different dementias can frightening especially if you don’t know much about them, including one of the more common ones that affect seniors, Alzheimer’s disease.
At the same time, dementia can be a little frightening even if you do know something about them. Being familiar with the process of the changes the brain and body go through during dementia doesn’t make things less confusing and frustrating.
For instance, knowing the stages of Alzheimer’s disease can come with the awareness that there’s currently no cure, and people diagnosed will continue to deteriorate until they pass away. However, this knowledge can also sometimes be a good guide to knowing what is happening and to know what phases often will be coming up.
Is it mental?
One question that sometimes comes up when discussing dementia is whether it is a mental health condition or something else.
After all, to someone who doesn’t know much clinical terminology, they could certainly see why Alzheimer’s can be equated to a mental disease – it affects the brain and personality and causes people to forget things. It may make people more emotional or affect how they respond to things, just like some mental health conditions. It may cause emotions to be stronger or occur sooner, such as extreme anger or sadness.
However, the current clinical definition of dementia is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. It does lead to a decline in mental abilities over time, and ultimately to decline in physical abilities as well, as someone loses coordination, memories, and ability to communicate and make decisions.
Although there are some strategies available that can slow its progressions, such as exercise and a healthy diet, dementia isn’t something that can be treated as a mental health condition can, such as psychotherapy or certain medications.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can, however, lead to various mental health conditions, including depression, fear, and anxiety. For instance, someone aware of their condition and its progression may be susceptible to depression.
In some cases, mental health conditions related to dementia can be treated with standard treatment methods, with some exceptions.
For instance, someone with advanced Alzheimer’s may not have the mental or verbal ability to share what they’re feeling and whether treatment methods are effective.
The condition does cause some challenges for providers trying to figure out what’s happening to a patient brain at a physical and mental level.
Often, it could be a general practitioner who does the initial diagnosis, but he or she might want to seek the expertise of a neurologist or a mental health provider who might be able to better describe what’s physically happening in their brain and what kind of behaviors could be expected as the dementia progresses.
Research continues into dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on everything from how to improve the quality of life for people with it and their families to figure out possible environmental and genetic risk factors.
One recent study of the brain shows that deep sleep helps protect the brain and triggers a process to remove toxins in the brain, including the plaques that cover and damage proteins. But Alzheimer’s disease or related health conditions are known to make it difficult to sleep or sleep well.
This type of research slowly improves our knowledge of what’s happening to the brain and body of people with Alzheimer’s disease. More information is learned about possible causes, but a universal cure is still a ways off.
However, this is a good month to learn more. November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to get more info about how the disease affects individuals and their families; the state of research; and possible symptoms that can be discussed with a provider or family members.
The month-long awareness period was started in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
It’s also an occasion to realize the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on many people’s lives. In 1983, there were only about 2 million people with the disease, and today there are more than 5 million.
As part of the month’s effort, people are encouraged to take part in efforts in their communities to help people with Alzheimer’s disease, increase awareness or raise money for research. This can take the form of fund-raising events like the “Memory Walk” that combines physical exercise with the intent of helping those with Alzheimer’s disease. Donations are always accepted as well for various nonprofits such as the Alzheimer’s Association.