As people age, they may become more forgetful and have challenges with their cognitive abilities. Some may wonder whether they have something wrong with them or if the problems are just normal age-related changes.

Not everyone who has memory loss has a dementia-related condition. Anyone who notices they’re having troubles with memory or other cognitive function should visit their doctor or a neurologist to determine what’s going on. It’s possible that medical conditions unrelated to dementia could be the root cause of nervous system problems.

For some, a diagnosis of dementia is made based on a health care exam, diagnostic testing, blood tests, brain scans and consideration of the common symptoms related to these brain disorders. This is sometimes a frightening time and may bring up a lot of questions. 

Whether you’ve been diagnosed or a loved one has been, understanding some basic information about dementia is often beneficial. The team at Rosewood Senior Living works closely with our residents and their loved ones to provide information about dementia.

What Is Dementia?

what is dementia - nurse caring for elderlyMany people think that dementia is a medical condition, but it’s actually a group of symptoms that impacts a person’s ability to think, their memory and their ability to live life in a normal manner. There are many different symptoms that come with a neurodegenerative condition, such as dementia. 

While many people focus on the cognitive symptoms, there are also mental health changes that can occur. Some of the signs of dementia that are a normal part of a dementia-related condition include:

  • Trouble with communication and finding the right words
  • Difficulty with motor functions and coordination
  • Problems with problem-solving or reasoning
  • Challenges with spatial abilities or cognition
  • Inability to organize and plan
  • Memory loss, commonly short-term memory loss about recent events, that’s likely noticed by others first
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Inappropriate behaviors
  • Personality changes
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Depression or irritation

Dementia-related conditions are caused by loss of nerve cells or damage to those brain cells. The symptoms a person experiences are determined by the parts of the brain affected by the damage. Because of this, the treatments individuals will need can vary.

Sometimes, the symptoms of dementia can improve. This is the case when there’s an underlying cause, such as a vitamin deficiency or medication side effects, that’s causing the symptoms. During the diagnostic process, medical professionals review the patient’s entire medical history and laboratory tests to determine whether the symptoms are reversible.

Different Types of Dementia

There are many types of dementia that can impact individuals. Determining which one a person has ensures they can receive the appropriate treatments for their condition. Some types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and usually affects older adults. It’s progressive and could be a genetic condition, so those with a family history of Alzheimer’s are at an increased risk of dementia.
  • Vascular dementia is caused by blood vessel damage that impacts the supply of blood to the brain. This is the second most common form of dementia. Individuals with this type of dementia may suffer one or more strokes. A history of traumatic brain injury is also a risk factor for this type of dementia.
  • Frontotemporal dementia impacts the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes. This type of dementia most commonly produces personality changes. It may progress slowly as the nerve cells break down.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies is another common form of progressive dementia. This type of dementia is often associated with rigidity and tremors, such as those normally associated with Parkinson’s disease.

It’s also possible that some people will have mixed dementia, which combines two or more forms of dementia. This can make the treatment course complex, but careful monitoring and medication management may be beneficial for these patients. In some cases, mixed dementia isn’t found until after the person passes away and an autopsy on the brain is performed.

Stages of Dementia

stages of dementia - illustration of elderly with dementiaThere are seven recognized stages of dementia progression. The rate at which a person moves through these depends on the type of dementia they have. It can also be impacted by the treatments and activities the person uses to manage the condition.

  • Stage 1 doesn’t involve any cognitive decline.
  • Stage 2 involves what’s normally associated with the typical aging process. This includes things like forgetting names or misplacing objects like keys. Dementia usually can’t be clinically diagnosed at this stage.
  • Stage 3 is when mild cognitive impairment is noted. This is when loved ones of the individual may start to notice there’s something wrong. The individual may have anxiety or seem irritated because they notice they have trouble doing normal activities.
  • Stage 4 is classified as mild dementia, which commonly comes with a denial that anything is wrong. Some people in this stage will avoid situations that might reveal the fact that they’re struggling to others.
  • Stage 5 is considered moderate dementia. Individuals in this stage will likely start to need some help with daily living activities, such as making decisions or keeping track of time. They probably won’t need help with basic life activities like getting dressed.
  • Stage 6 is moderately severe dementia. At this point, the person will probably need around-the-clock care, which is hard for family members to provide. They will suffer from memory problems and are usually unaware of their surroundings. This stage of dementia is very noticeable.
  • Stage 7 is the most severe stage of dementia. Individuals will need assistance with all activities now. They’re usually unable to communicate and will require help with eating, using the bathroom and walking.

The first three stages are normally classified as “pre-dementia” stages because the person may not yet realize that anything is amiss. Some may note the early signs, such as forgetfulness during these early stages. From stages 4 through 7, the person is said to have active dementia. Entering a dementia care program is likely necessary, especially during the late stages. 

Caring for a Loved One With a Dementia-Related Condition

A person who has a dementia-related condition might not need much extra help from a caregiver in the early stages. As the condition progresses, they’ll need more assistance. They’ll eventually need around-the-clock monitoring to help keep them safe. 

The memory loss that comes with these conditions can make doing daily life activities difficult as well as dangerous. Some people who have dementia won’t be able to make safe decisions. They often don’t recognize that certain actions are dangerous. Even cooking themselves a meal could be dangerous because they may forget the stove is on or try to cook things in an unsafe manner.

Another issue that people who have dementia will face is wandering. They can become lost easily and may get themselves into an unsafe situation. Monitoring this at home can become complex. Memory care programs include safety measures to ensure individuals who have dementia remain in safe places.

Dealing with personality changes and other symptoms of dementia can be difficult. Oftentimes, a person who has one of these conditions will become agitated, but the communication challenges make it difficult for them to tell those around them what’s wrong. It takes considerable patience to work through these situations and help the individual calm down. All Rosewood Senior Living resident care staff members in our memory care program are trained to handle these situations.

Services That Help People With Dementia-Related Conditions

There are many services that can help people who have these conditions. You’ll find these at Rosewood Senior Living’s Visalia memory care home. From basic services like weekly housekeeping and linen services to specialized cognitive exercises, our services are tailored to each individual. A low resident-to-staff ratio means each person gets the help they need, including grooming and dressing assistance.

People who have dementia-related conditions thrive on familiarity. By enabling them to keep a consistent schedule and work with staff members they know, our memory care program helps them settle into their new way of life. Group activities ensure everyone gets to know their housemates and realizes they have a support system to help them.

Cognitive activities, such as arts and crafts, may help slow the progression of dementia. Physical fitness activities keep the body in the best shape possible and help reduce the chance of motor ability decline due to dementia.

Contact Our Memory Care Program

Once a person needs assistance with daily living activities or to prevent wandering, a memory care program can be beneficial. Contact the professionals at Rosewood Senior Living at 559-372-8847 to determine how our program can help. We can schedule a visit for you to come out and tour our home or send you a brochure with more information.