Woman hugging elderly woman suffering from dementia

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: A Guide to Dementia and Care

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and WellSpring Home Health is passionate about providing the best care for our patients with dementia and helping our communities know what to look for. The brain is a vital part of the human body. With age, it’s essential we check on its health and know how to recognize the signs of dementia. Here’s an overview of Alzheimer’s disease and how to find care for yourself or a loved one.

Learn how our home care services can help you or your loved one. Contact us today!  

What is Dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Association states that “dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.” Dementia is a decline in mental functioning that is so drastic that it directly interferes with a person’s ability to care for themselves.  

A variety of diseases can cause dementia, and this medical condition can be caused by brain injuries as well. In all dementia cases, a severe decline in thinking abilities is present but exact symptoms will vary from person to person. Some causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, meaning that symptoms will get worse over time.

Please note that dementia is not a part of the natural aging process. We are bound to forget names or lose items from time to time. Dementia differs from natural aging because it’s a loss of mental functioning that is so severe it prevents people from taking care of themselves and engaging in daily activities.

If you feel you or your loved one may have dementia, it is best to talk to your doctor or reach out to a qualified health professional to receive a diagnosis. 

What Is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often discussed together and it’s easy to think the terms are one and the same. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease. Plaques, bundles of protein, build up in the brain and destroy brain cell connections. The destruction of brain cell connections then causes dementia, specifically, memory loss, problems speaking, confusion, and eventual loss of fine motor skills. The disease’s usual onset occurs in adults over age 65.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and may account for 60-70% of all dementia cases according to the World Health Organization. There are about 6.5 million people in the United States that have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease will have symptoms that get worse over time. This disease is irreversible and a cure does not exist. A caregiver’s role is already important but is amplified even more when helping loved ones with Alzheimer’s due to its progressive nature. People diagnosed with this condition will most certainly need the compassion and daily assistance that effective caregiving provides. Alzheimer’s will never relent, which is why it’s necessary to obtain quality home care services and create a home health care routine.

Types of Progressive Dementia

As mentioned before, dementia is caused by a variety of diseases and brain injuries. The multiple causes of dementia explain why there are also multiple types of dementia. The most common is progressive dementia, which is a type of dementia that becomes worse over time.

Vascular Dementia

This form of dementia is caused by damage to your brain’s blood vessels. Blood vessel damage can occur from a stroke, blood clot, or brain hemorrhage. This type of dementia can include hallucinations, problems with reasoning/planning, and poor judgment. Quitting smoking will lessen your chances of getting this dementia.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Nerve cells in the frontal and temporal regions break down and cause radical changes to a person’s personality and behavior. People suffering from this condition often engage in inappropriate social behavior and may also experience speech and language problems. The onset of this dementia is usually between the ages of 40 and 65.

Lewy Body Dementia

A common form of dementia is caused by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein. These protein deposits are also known as “Lewy bodies” and cause hallucinations, sleep issues, diminished thinking abilities, issues moving, and the inability to regulate bodily functions such as bladder control. “

Lewy bodies” appear in Parkinson’s disease as well. Parkinson’s disease dementia is also very closely related but is different because problems with movement appear one year prior to cognitive problems whereas thinking issues and movement problems occur at the same time during Lewy body dementia.

Other Types of Dementia

Alcohol-Related Dementia (ARD)

This type of dementia is caused by excessive drinking over a period of years. Symptoms include memory problems occur, struggling to think logically and may have personality changes. If caught early, it’s possible for a person to reduce symptoms or reverse dementia by abstaining from alcohol, improving their diet, and adding thiamine.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

This is caused by repeated blows to the head. Athletes and former athletes of contact sports such as boxing and football are at a higher risk for dementia caused by CTE. CTE causes a wide range of symptoms such as learning problems, driving issues, depression, rage episodes, and movement issues (similar to Parkinson’s disease). Minimizing blows to the head and taking care of oneself after a concussion help prevent dementia.

Dementia Warning Signs To Look Out For

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: A Guide to Dementia and Care  Infographic

As mentioned earlier, meeting with a qualified healthcare professional is your best course of action for determining if you or your loved one has the condition. Dementia affects people differently, however, there are some common warning signs:

  • Repetitive behavior. Asking the same question again and again or retelling the same story about a recent event multiple times.
  • Difficulty with familiar tasks. Forgetting how to do everyday tasks like paying for an item in a store or struggling to use a dishwasher can be a symptom of dementia.
  • Changes in personality or mood. Personality changes such as a loved one who was once very talkative becomes quiet. Mood changes, depression, or angry outbursts can be symptoms of early dementia.
  • Getting lost or confused current location. Examples of this include getting lost while driving or a loved one becoming confused as to how or why they are at their current location or they may be confused about the current time and place.
  • Problems communicating or finding the correct words to say. Signs of dementia include difficulties following conversations or struggling to find the right words to say.
  • Issues with problem-solving or showing poor judgment. A person may have trouble working on regular tasks or show poor judgment such as mishandling their money.
  • Memory loss. Alzheimer’s and other diseases will cause short-term memory loss in early states of dementia.  

Lower your risk of getting dementia

Dementia is difficult to prevent but here are some ways to lower your risk of getting it:

  • Exercise daily
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours)
  • Don’t smoke
  • Stay socially active and meet with family and friends
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Get help for high blood pressure

Seeking Dementia Care

Reaching out to a primary care doctor or family physician is an excellent first step towards seeking care. A primary care physician can then refer you or a loved one to a medical professional, such as neurologist, who can determine whether you or your family member has dementia. Qualified medical professionals will work closely with you to create a treatment plan and map out a course of action for living with the disease.

Depending on the severity of the dementia and the type of dementia a person has, home care services will likely be needed. Dementia directly interferes with a person’s ability to live independently. Compassionate care and assistance from WellSpring Home Health will help you and your loved one though this difficult transition. WellSpring Home Health offers at-home skilled services including nursing care, disability care, physical therapy, speech therapy, medical social workers, and home health aides. We aim to provide the best possible care for patients even if 24-hour complex care is required.

WellSpring Home Health also provides non-medical care, known as unskilled home services.

These services include assistance with bathing, meal preparation, transportation, and housekeeping. We offer veteran services and work out of the Anchorage/Wasilla, Alaska regions and Pierce County/Tacoma, Washington.

A dementia diagnosis is a life-changing event for both you and your loved one. Please remember that you are not alone. We want to help you. Our team provides professional and compassionate care. WellSpring Home Health believes that each person is entitled to maximize their potential and enjoy a great quality of life.

Have questions about our services? Please visit our FAQs page or contact us directly!