About Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Are Dementia and Alzheimer’s the same?

Dementia is defined as an impairment in cognitive function that affects memory, personality, and reasoning. Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common form of dementia affecting the elderly. This disorder accounts for more than three quarters of all dementia cases. The progression of symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease is typically very slow, occurring over a long period of time.

What is the occurrence of Dementia?

Elderly Man SmilingStatistics have demonstrated that the incidence of dementia is on the rise and approximately 1 in 10 men and 1 in 6 women who live beyond the age of 55 will develop a form of dementia. Currently in the United States, the number of people living with an age-related dementia tallies more than 5 million.

What is the cause of Dementia?

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, there are other culprits for this disorder including stroke, alcohol abuse, and vitamin deficiency. Cognitive processes that cause this disorder have not been clearly defined while there are some cases that involve genetic elements, the aging process is by far the biggest risk factor. However, it is important to keep in mind that dementia is not normal at any age. Some recent studies have suggested disease processes such as obesity and diabetes along with lifestyle choices have been linked to the occurrence of dementia.

How are relationships affected with dementia?

The effects of dementia can be devastating on the entire family, especially for the person experiencing the disorder. The roles and relationships within the family structure will experience change through the loss of independence of the affected family member. The individual may feel excluded as some discussions regarding their care will likely take place without them present. When the person experiencing the dementia is married the relationship between husband and wife will likely change as the other person may take on another role as caregiver and the spouse with dementia may feel frustrated or uncertain about accepting more help. Many other aspects of the relationships between the person affected by dementia and loved ones can be affected as well, such as intimacy, communication, and maintaining an emotional connection.

Is dementia hereditary?

Nearly all forms of dementia are not inherited. Certain disorders such as Huntington’s disease, which is passed on from parent to child, do cause a form of dementia. Additionally, nearly half of the frontal-temporal dementia cases are caused by a genetic trait. Statistics show that 99% of all Alzheimer cases show no hereditary factors. However, a very small percentage of cases have been identified as being genetic in nature, but these only account for 1% of dementia cases.

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Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

No cure has been identified for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and it is not likely to happen in the near future. Currently there are new drugs on the market that have demonstrated the ability to slow the progression of the disease, but nothing has been developed to prevent or cure this disorder.

What are common symptoms of worsening dementia?

Senior woman gets a kiss from her loving adult son who has comeWhen dementia or Alzheimer’s disease progresses the individual can become more dependent on care from others. Activities of daily living can become more difficult and the individual may not keep up basic hygiene or may require more assistance getting around the house. Forgetfulness, strange mannerisms, and agitation can all be increased when dementia worsens, sometimes even aggression may begin or escalate.

What are the first signs of beginning dementia?

Some of the earliest symptoms of dementia can be very subtle and not always noticed. Becoming more forgetful, missing appointments, misplacing items, cleaning less, and bathing less are some of the earliest signs of dementia. Symptoms associated with early dementia can be different for anyone and include even more behaviors such as disorientation to time and place, poor judgment, personality changes, language problems, and loss of motivation.

Does medication therapy help Dementia?

Medication therapy has been proven effective in preventing symptoms from progression for a period of time when the patient suffers from a progressive form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. When the dementia is caused by a vitamin or thyroid disorder medication therapy can correct the dementia.

What is typical home management?

Experiencing dementia is frightening and the affected person will need both emotional and physical support at home. Depending on the areas the individual is struggling with the type of care provided can vary greatly. Home care can be as simple as providing reminders and assistance getting to appointments and picking up groceries. Or the home care may require someone to be with the person at all times and assist as needed.

Is at-home patient care appropriate?

Helping An Old ManDepending on the degree of dementia experienced home care may be a good option for you or your loved one. The familiarity of the home can oftentimes keep the individual at their optimal level of functioning longer. There are nursing services that can provide assistance in the home in the form of nurse’s aides and nurses depending on the type of services required.

Is my loved one safe at home?

There will likely come a time where you or your loved one may no longer be safe living at home. This needs to be evaluated on an individual basis, and your primary healthcare provider can be an excellent resource to help evaluate the safety risks posed to your loved one at home.

What type of assistive devices are available for in the home?

For the patient living at home adaptive equipment is available to make them safer and help prevent falls. An emergency response system in place, usually in the form of a necklace worn at all times that can be pressed for help, is one of the most important tools to protect your loved one in the home in the event of a fall. Adaptive equipment such as handrails, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, shower chairs, lift chairs, and raised toilet seats are available and can be used to make getting around the home and performing tasks easier and safer.

Does my loved one need full-time nursing care?

There may come a point in the progression of dementia that care in the home is no longer safe, possible or both. If your loved is experiencing frequent falling, losing weight, inability to bathe, worsening memory loss, or other more debilitating symptoms, 24-hour nursing care may be the best choice.

What types of 24-care facilities are available?

Assisted living facilities may be appropriate if your loved one needs more care than the family or individual is able to receive in the home, but not necessarily complete nursing care. While all facilities will provide different services, typically assisted living is best for those who are able to move about independently within their apartment and call for help when needed. Be sure to find out what each facility provides when looking at options. A skilled nursing facility is an appropriate choice for patients that require around the clock skilled care.

Does my loved one need a nursing facility with a dementia unit?

Oftentimes patients who are in the mid-stage of dementia may become forgetful to the point of wandering off and not knowing where they are. If your loved one walks out of the house, gets lost, or displays aggressive/challenging behaviors, then a dementia unit might be beneficial to them.

What type of care is provided in a dementia unit?

Senior CoupleUnique services provided by dementia units are helpful to many patients. These are also referred to as special care units, locked facilities, dementia wings, or memory loss units. While all nursing facilities will have different services provided in their dementia unit, most commonly a secured, locked down area is provided that offers specially trained staff that are capable of handling challenging or aggressive behaviors.

Will insurance/Medicare pay for nursing home stay?

While most short-term nursing homes stays are covered by Medicare or private insurance, it is important to take note that most policies will not cover long-term nursing home care. Be sure to check with your specific coverage to find out if and how your plan helps pay for nursing care.

How do I know which nursing facility is right for my loved one?

All nursing homes and facilities are unique and offer a variety of services. The only way to find the perfect facility that is going to meet the needs of your loved one is to visit the facility, talk to the staff, find out all the services that are provided, and make an educated decision on which facility is the best fit. It is important to keep your loved-one as much involved in the process as possible so they feel good about the transition and included in the decision.

Contributing Authors

Kelli Wilson, RN
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James Conte, RN, BS Nursing, BS Pharmacology
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    Miranda Booher, RN, ACLS Certified, BLS Certified, Tx Certified
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      Carolyn Falconer-Horne, Ph.D. Candidate
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