December 12, 2011
Recently, Pat Summitt, longtime coach of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team, was diagnosed with a form of dementia. Her story has put a spotlight on something that millions of Americans suffer with. But, for many, dementia is something of a puzzle.
On its website, The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) points out that "Dementia is not a specific disease." In fact, dementia is better thought of as a word that covers a number of different conditions that affect the brain.
The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. This disease can cause serious memory loss. This can lead to a person not being able to do simple things and take care of themselves. It is thought that more than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. According to WebMD, this makes up between 50% and 60% of all dementia cases.
Other less common and less-talked-about diseases are also forms of dementia. These include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Huntington's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
NINDS points out, for a doctor to diagnose dementia, the patient must be awake and aware. And there must be two brain functions not working properly, such as memory, language skills, perception, or cognitive skills including reasoning and judgment.Also, dementia is most often seen in people aged 60 or older. But, it can happen to people much younger.
The following can be signs of dementia:
Taking care of someone with dementia can be hard. Often, the dementia patient has trouble doing simple things like getting dressed or feeding themselves. This puts a strain on those caring for that person. But maybe the hardest part of taking care of someone with dementia is trying communicate - or talk - with that person.
People with dementia have trouble understanding what is being said to them. They have trouble remembering what they have been asked or told. They can become easily distracted by noises and other things around them. And they can even seem to become "lost" in their own minds.So, the key is to be patient and follow some simple steps.
The Family Caregiver Alliance offers the following tips for speaking and dealing with a person suffering from dementia. Founded in 1977, Family Caregiver Alliance was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home.
Improving your skills at caregiving for your loved ones with dementia will make your and their life less stressful. It will also help improve the quality of your relationship. This will also help you handle the difficult behavior that often accompanies dementia.
A typical home can present many dangers and problems to a person with dementia. But simple changes can really help.
NINDS offers these tips to create a safe home for a person with dementia:
Taking care of a person with dementia can take a toll on you. It can be tiring to deal with an adult who cannot care for themselves and relies on you for almost everything.
So make sure to take care of yourself as well. Take breaks. Ask for help so that you can get away for a while. Make sure to eat well and exercise when you can.
It may seem like you are being selfish when you do things for yourself. But remember, the better you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to care for your loved one.
As of now, there are no drugs that can cure Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. But there are medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration that can help some dementia patients control their symptoms and live better lives.
Also, certain kinds of physical therapy, such as practicing simple tasks over and over, and rewards for good behavior have been helpful for some patients.
But the bottom line is that family members, loved ones, and doctors have to work together to offer the best care for the dementia patient. With the right approach, you can make a positive difference.
If you have Humana coverage, your employer may offer our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).Find out about Humana's work-life program
Caregivers also need support. Find tools from Humana to help you.Caregiving Resources
Make time for yourself and lessen the stress even when you’re caught up in the hectic pace of caring for someone else.Read about coping as a caregiver