Stephanie Brynjolfson, who represents the Alzheimer’s Association, has been giving a series of mini-seminars at Valley Crest Memory Care, located in Apple Valley, California.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: Memory; Communication and language; Ability to focus and pay attention; Reasoning and judgment; and, Visual perception.
There are so many different signs and symptoms that the average person will not be able to know if their loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia.
That’s why Valley Crest has opted to present this educational series at no charge to attendees.
On April 30, Valley Crest presents Part 2 of Understanding Communication and Challenging Behaviors.
Remember, our loved ones with Dementia have the same needs and feelings that we do. They simply have a different way of expressing what they need. These amazing people have lived through times that we can’t begin to imagine. Back when they were young, a contract was a hand shake. They for the most part, had integrity, understood the meaning of hard work and have so much that they can teach us, if we will only listen.
Keep in mind that they still need to be needed. They need to feel relevant. It is our job to make that happen. It takes a commitment to putting ourselves in their shoes, being creative and compassionate even when we want to scream. Focus on the person and not the task at hand is key…
People with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood.
Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. And even if symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides an opportunity to volunteer for clinical trials or studies. It also provides time to plan for the future.
Vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to varoius regions of the brain, depriving brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients. Inadequate blood flow can damage and eventually kill cells anywhere in the body, and the brain is especially vulnerable. Changes in thinking skills sometimes occur suddenly following strokes that block major blood vessels in the brain. Thinking difficulties may also begin as mild changes that worsen gradually as a result of multiple minor strokes or other conditions tht affect smaller blood vessels, leading to cumulative damage. Vascular brain changes often coexist with changes linked to other types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a type of dementia that leads to a progressive decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function because of abnormal microscopic deposits that gradually destroy certain brain cells. These deposits consist chiefly of alpha-synuclein, a protein that’s found widely in the brain but whose normal funciton isn’t yet known. These deposits are referred to as “Lewy bodies” after Frederick H. Lewy, M.D., the neurologist who discovered them in the early 1900s while working in Dr. Alois Alzheimer’s laboratory. Lewy bodies are also found in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia. The overlap of symptoms sometimes leads to a misdiagnosis, and prescribing of antipsychotic medications may cause serious side effects in 50 percent of those with DLB, such as changes in consciousness, impaired swallowing, acute confusion, episodes of delusions or hallucinations, or appearance or worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Cognitive Change and Dementia
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results from an impact to the head that disrupts normal brain function. TBI is a significant threat to cognitive health in two ways:
(1) A TBI’s direct effects — which may be long-lasting or even permanent — can include unconsciousness, inability to recall the traumatic event, confusion, difficulty learning and remembering new information, trouble speaking coherently, unsteadiness, lack of coordination and problems with vision or hearing.
(2) Certain types of TBI may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia years after the injury takes place.
Falls are the leading cause of TBI for all ages. Those aged 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death due to falls. Other common causes of TBI include vehicle accidents and sports injuries. TBI may also be caused by indirect forces that jolt the brain violently within the skull, such as shock waves from battlefield explosions. In addition, TBI can result from bullet wounds or other injuries that penetrate the skull and brain.
Doctors classify TBI as mild, moderate or severe, depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness, how long unconsciousness lasts and the severity of symptoms. Although most TBIs are classified as mild because they’re not life-threatening, even a mild TBI can have serious and long-lasting effects.
There is emerging evidence that adherence to a Mediterranean Diet may reduce cognitive decline in memory and thinking abilities. Many experts believe that controlling cardiovascular risk factors may be themost helpful approach to protecting brain health.
Today there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and as baby boomers get older, those numbers will rise dramatically. By 2050 up to 16 million will have the disease. Care for those people will cost the U.S., more than $1 trillion, and put a strain on the healthcare system, families, and federal and state budgets. More research is needed to help combat this problem.
Things to ask the doctor. Questions to ask the doctor
What are the tests I need to take and how long will it take to get a diagnosis?
Will you refer me to a specialist?
Could the medicines I’m taking be causing my symptoms?
Do I have any other conditions that could be causing my symptoms or making them worse?
What should I expect if it is Alzheimer’s?
Which treatments are available for Alzheimer’s? What are the risks and benefits and possible side effects?
What about participating in a clinical trial? What are the risks and benefits?
Is there anything else I should know?
When should I come back for another visit?
Remember that Valley Crest Memory Care is there to help, just a phone call away. Call (760) 242-3188 for information about upcoming seminars and to reserve your seat for April 30!