The term dementia describes the cognitive decline caused by several diseases, such as Alzheimer's. Sometimes, dementia develops following a stroke or another brain injury. Certain medications and health conditions can cause dementia-like symptoms in older adults, and these symptoms may be reversible with support from a knowledgeable doctor. You're more likely to develop dementia if you're older than 65, have a family history of dementia or have heart problems.
There's a common myth that dementia is a normal part of the aging process. While it's true that some people develop mild memory problems as they get older, these changes don't affect someone's long-term memory or language abilities. Dementia causes more challenging symptoms and doesn't affect all seniors.
If your loved one develops dementia, you'll likely notice changes in how they think and speak. Some types of dementia only cause cognitive issues. Other types, such as Lewy body dementia, may cause physical symptoms, such as shaking or balance problems.
The symptoms of dementia can vary significantly from person to person. Common symptoms include:
Most types of dementia cause permanent changes in the brain, which means there isn't usually a cure. However, your loved one's health care provider can prescribe treatment to manage dementia symptoms and help them enjoy the best possible quality of life.
Family and friends can also support people with dementia in living a fulfilling lifestyle. Helping your loved one establish a predictable, reassuring routine can help manage mood changes and "sundowning," a phenomenon that causes distress or aggression in the evenings. Encouraging them to continue socializing and enjoying the activities they did before they became unwell is also helpful for maintaining independence and enjoyment of life. You could also consider helping the person declutter and organize their living space to remove hazards and make everyday tasks easier to complete.
Friends and family members of people with dementia often want to know how fast the condition progresses. Unfortunately, this question is hard to answer. The prognosis of a person with dementia often depends on their health status, their age and the type of dementia causing their symptoms.
Dementia often starts gradually, and it's common not to notice the symptoms of mild dementia. People with mild dementia often experience forgetfulness, problems with timekeeping and communication issues. Generally, early-stage dementia may last for between 1 and 2 years before progressing.
Middle-stage, or moderate, dementia causes more profound difficulties that are harder to miss. During this stage, the person may become very forgetful, have more difficulties communicating and require support with their day-to-day activities. Middle-stage dementia may last for around 3 years.
Severe late-stage dementia can occur around 5 years after the onset of dementia. People with late-stage dementia are often dependent on caregivers to meet their daily needs and may display more severe cognitive issues. For example, people with severe dementia often don't recognize familiar people or may struggle to understand what's happening around them.
However, the time line of dementia progression varies significantly. Some people's symptoms may progress more slowly, while other types of dementia can cause a more rapid decline. Your loved one's health care team is best placed to answer questions about their prognosis and how to treat their symptoms.
A dementia diagnosis doesn't have to mean the end of a vibrant lifestyle. With the right support and a safe environment, people with dementia can still have enriching social experiences and enjoy as much autonomy as possible.
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, and it's important to take care of your own needs while supporting your loved one. Joining an assisted living or memory care community can be helpful for older adults with dementia because they can receive tailored support in a safe, supportive setting.
Assisted living communities like Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville provide personalized senior care and support with daily activities in a homelike environment. Seniors in our community enjoy a vibrant calendar of social opportunities and can access technology solutions to guard against wandering and maintain their safety. If your loved one requires more intensive support, our memory care community delivers high-quality care, supervision and social connections in secure, comfortable surroundings.
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