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If you notice changes in friends, family or others close to you and are concerned for their health particularly when it involves changes in memory, thinking or behavior it can be difficult to know what to do or say. Although it's natural to be uncertain or nervous about how to offer support, these changes could be a sign of a significant health concern. Use the guide below or print out the PDF to help you feel more confident and prepared as you assess the situation and take action.
Assess the Situation
1: What changes in memory, thinking or behavior do you see? What's the person doing or not doing that's out of the ordinary and causing concern?
2: What else is going on? Various conditions can cause changes in memory, thinking and behavior. What health or lifestyle issues could be a factor? E.g., family stress or health issues like diabetes or depression.
3: Learn about the signs of Alzheimer's and other dementias and the benefits of an early diagnosis.
Visitalz.org/10signsto educate yourself on 10 common warning signs of Alzheimer's and why its important to know if dementia is causing the changes. Do you notice any of the signs in the person you're concerned about?
4: Has anyone else noticed the change(s)?Find out if friends and family have seen changes. What are they?
Take action through conversation
5: Who should have the conversation to discuss concerns?
It could be you, a trusted family member or friend, or a combination. Its usually best to speak one-on-one so that the person doesn't feel threatened by a group, but use your best judgment to determine what will likely be most comfortable for the individual.
6: What is the best time and place to have the conversation?
Have the conversation as soon as possible. In addition to choosing a date and time, consider where the person will feel most comfortable.
7: What will you or the person having the conversation say? Try the following:
I've noticed [change] in you, and I'm concerned. Have you noticed it? Are you worried?
How have you been feeling lately? You haven't seemed like yourself.
I noticed you [specific example] and it worried me. Has anything else like that happened?
8: Offer to go with the person to the doctor.
Ask the person if he or she will see a doctor and show your support by offering to go to the appointment. Some words of encouragement may include:
There are lots of things that could be causing this, and dementia may or may not be one of them. Lets see if the doctor can help us figure out what's going on.
The sooner we know what's causing these problems, the sooner we can address it. I think it would give us both peace of mind if we talked with a doctor.
9: If needed, have multiple conversations.
The first conversation may not be successful. Write down some notes about the experience to help plan for the next conversation.
Date/time of day
What worked well?
What was the result?
What can be done differently next time?
Reach out for help
10: Turn to the Alzheimer's Association for information and support.
Visit our education resources to take our free Dementia Conversations online program. Learn how to have honest and caring conversations about common concerns including driving, doctor visits, and legal and financial planning when someone begins to show signs of dementia. Call our free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) to speak with a masters-level clinician who can provide more information about how to discuss memory concerns with someone close to you.
The journey of Alzheimers and dementia is not only a medical challenge but a profound emotional experience that impacts not only the individuals affected but also their loved ones. At the heart of this journey lies the art of communication, a skill that gradually slips away as the conditions progress. In this blog post, we will explore the intricacies of communication in the realm of Alzheimers and dementia, understand the challenges faced, and uncover strategies that can help bridge the gap and bring comfort to our senior loved ones.Alzheimers and dementia are neurodegenerative disorders that cast a shadow over memory, cognition, and communication. These conditions affect millions of individuals worldwide, causing memory loss, cognitive decline, and difficulties in processing and understanding information. As caregivers and loved ones, understanding the landscape of these conditions is essential to provide appropriate care and support.Challenges in CommunicationCommunication is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, but Alzheimers and dementia disrupt this crucial channel of connection. Seniors battling these conditions often face various challenges that hinder their ability to express themselves and engage in meaningful conversations. These challenges include:Word-Finding Difficulties: The gradual decline in vocabulary leads to pauses and hesitations as seniors struggle to recall and articulate words.Limited Vocabulary: Over time, the richness of their vocabulary diminishes, leaving them with a limited range of words to express themselves.Impaired Comprehension: Understanding spoken and written language becomes increasingly challenging, making it difficult for them to follow instructions or engage in discussions.Repetitive Speech: Memory lapses can lead to the repetition of phrases, questions, or stories, reflecting their frustration and need for reassurance.Non-Verbal Communication Issues: The ability to interpret facial expressions, gestures, and body language diminishes, causing misunderstandings and frustration.Navigating the Effects on Language and MemoryThe impact of Alzheimers and dementia goes beyond communication challenges, affecting memory and cognitive abilities:Memory Loss: Both short-term and long-term memories are compromised, making it difficult to remember recent events or even recognize loved ones.Language Comprehension: The ability to understand complex sentences and abstract concepts becomes progressively challenging, contributing to the breakdown in communication.Reading and Writing Difficulties: Declining linguistic abilities can lead to struggles in reading and understanding written material, and in some cases, even writing coherent sentences.Speech Changes: The rhythm and fluency of speech are disrupted, leading to fragmented sentences and pauses, which can be frustrating for both the individual and their caregivers.Social Isolation: Communication difficulties often result in seniors withdrawing from social interactions due to embarrassment or frustration, leading to increased isolation and potentially exacerbating cognitive decline.Strategies for Effective CommunicationAs caregivers and loved ones, it is our responsibility to adapt our communication strategies to better connect with seniors battling Alzheimers and dementia. Here are some proven strategies to enhance communication:Patience and Empathy: Practicing patience and showing empathy are foundational to effective communication. Taking the time to understand their emotions and being present with them can create a sense of security.Simple Language: Using clear and concise language reduces confusion. Break down complex ideas into smaller, understandable pieces to facilitate smoother conversations.Non-Verbal Cues: Engaging in non-verbal communication through touch, eye contact, and gestures can convey emotions and provide a bridge when words fall short.Offering Choices: Providing choices empowers individuals and fosters engagement. It also simplifies decision-making and encourages their participation in conversations.Visual Aids: Visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, or objects can help convey messages and ideas, transcending language barriers and making communication more accessible.Validation: Acknowledging their feelings and experiences validates their reality. By responding empathetically, you build trust and strengthen the connection.Dealing with Challenging BehaviorsCaring for seniors with Alzheimers and dementia requires understanding and addressing challenging behaviors:Responding with Understanding: Challenging behaviors often stem from frustration or confusion. Responding with patience and understanding rather than confrontation can defuse tense situations.Redirection: Gently redirecting their attention from the behavior to a more positive activity can help shift their focus and reduce agitation.Managing Sundowning: Seniors with Alzheimers may experience increased confusion and agitation during the evening, a phenomenon known as sundowning. Establishing calming routines and minimizing stimuli can ease this transition.Addressing Wandering: Wandering is another common behavior associated with Alzheimers and dementia. Minimize safety hazards, use visual cues, and engage them in purposeful activities to curb this behavior.Empowering Communication with Tools and ResourcesEnhancing communication also involves utilizing various tools and resources:Assistive Technologies: Speech-generating devices, augmentative and alternative communication apps, and text-to-speech software offer alternative means of expression, empowering seniors to communicate effectively.Support Groups: Connecting with others facing similar challenges in support groups provides a sense of community, validation, and shared experiences.Professional Guidance: Speech-language pathologists and healthcare professionals offer expertise in developing personalized communication strategies tailored to the individuals needs.Recommended Reading: Exploring literature on effective communication techniques, active listening, and understanding cognitive disorders equips caregivers with valuable insights and strategies.In the midst of the challenges posed by Alzheimers and dementia, effective communication becomes a beacon of hope. By understanding the unique hurdles seniors face, adopting empathetic communication strategies, and harnessing the power of assistive technologies and resources, we can bridge the gap between the world of words and the world of emotions. In doing so, we illuminate the path for our loved ones, enriching their lives and fostering connections that endure beyond the shadows cast by these conditions.
What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimers?Kim Trevey on Oct 22, 2023 | Bader House of Plano BlogThe words Alzheimers and dementia are often used in the same sentence and even interchangeably, as if theyre the same disease.But this isnt true.In fact, one of these isnt a disease at all.What is dementia?Dementia is not a disease in and of itself but rather a word that describes a group of symptoms related to neurodegeneration, which is a deterioration of cells in the brain. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss; difficulty with reasoning or judgment; changes in thinking skills, language and behavior; and a decrease in the ability to focus.Several conditions can cause dementia, including Alzheimers disease, which would be considered a type of dementia.Other types of dementia include:1. Huntingtons diseaseHuntingtons Disease is a type of dementia is hereditary and usually shows up earlier in life, between the ages of 30 and 50.Along with impairing memory and cognitive function, the first symptom of Huntingtons disease is often uncontrollable movement in the upper body.2. Lewy body dementiaLewy bodies are abnormal deposits of protein in the brain that cause hallucinations, imbalance in the body and attention issues.3. Vascular dementiaVascular Dementia is a type of dementia represents 10% of all dementia cases.It is caused by restricted blood flow in the brain due to blockage in the blood vessels and can lead to stroke or brain bleeds.4. Parkinsons disease dementiaThis type of dementia occurs in those with Parkinsons disease who also experience a decline in thinking and reasoning skills.5. Mixed dementiaWhen the changes in the brain are caused by multiple types of dementia, this is known as mixed dementia.The most common form of mixed dementia is caused by conditions related to Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia.Dementia is more than the natural decline that comes with aging. Dementia signifies damage that has been done to the brain cells to the extent that it is interfering with a persons cognitive function and abilities.What is Alzheimers disease?Named after physician Alois Alzheimer, who was the first to link memory loss symptoms with changes in the brain, Alzheimers disease is the leading disease that causes dementia, causing 60-80% of cases.Alzheimers is a degenerative brain disease that affects cognitive functions such as memory, learning new information, thinking, reasoning, and logic. Symptoms increase and worsen over time.An estimated six million Americans are living with Alzheimers today, most of whom are over the age of 65. About 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimers.Is it Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia?Alzheimers disease can be diagnosed through a series of tests conducted by your doctor, whether thats your primary care physician, a neurologist, or a geriatrician. These tests include mental status testing and neuropsychological testing.Mental status testing tests your thinking and memory skills. Your doctor can score how well you do on these tests to determine your level of cognitive impairment.Neuropsychological testing is often conducted by a neuropsychologist. This series of tests will also test your memory and thinking skills but will additionally test if youre able to perform daily functions normally and if another mental condition, such as depression, could be causing your memory loss.Your doctor will also conduct tests to rule out any other factors that could be resulting in Alzheimers-like symptoms, including:brain tumornutritional deficiencyautoimmune diseasemetabolic imbalancereaction to medicationan infectionsubstance abuseYour doctor may also interview family members or people close to you to discuss any changes in your behavior theyve noticed.The bottom line is extensive testing is available that can give you a proper diagnosis of Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia. You can even get tested before you start showing symptoms with the use of MRIs, genetic testing and testing of the liquid around your brain and spinal cord. Your doctor can determine if you are a good candidate for early testing.Understanding the world of neurodegeneration can feel overwhelming, but knowing the difference between Alzheimers disease and dementia can help you determine what symptoms you or a loved one are experiencing and how to approach your doctor.With extensive and ongoing research, specialists have been able to identify the numerous forms of dementia, their causes and possible treatments that wont necessarily cure dementia but can help curb symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients and the loved ones who care for them.
What is Dementia?Dementia is actually not a disease in and of itself but, rather, a syndrome that is characterized by a collection of symptoms affecting cognition and memory, making it hard to remember, think clearly, and make decisions. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia, although its important to note that not all people who have been diagnosed with dementia necessarily have Alzheimers Disease. Some other types of dementia typically identified are vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontal temporal and mixed dementia.What Are Some Dementia Symptoms?All of us have occasional problems recalling a name, accessing an old memory, or remembering where we may have parked our car. But someone living with dementia will exhibit a range of troubling and persistent symptoms that get worse and may include: Changes in mood and personality Decreased or poor judgment Problems speaking or writing Confusion with time or place Disruptions in daily life due to memory loss Difficulty managing everyday tasks Repetitive behaviorsIf your loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, its important to know that it does not necessarily mean a dementia diagnosis; infections and dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, and depression can present many of these signs. However, if any of these symptoms persist or worsen, its essential that you consult a physician who can make a diagnosis. Its also helpful to know that no single test can make a determination; a diagnosis is based on a range of medical tests, creating a baseline, and an individuals medical history.How Quickly Does the Disease Progress?Dementia is a progressive condition it gets worse over time, not better. For some, the disease progresses rapidly; in others, it takes years to get to the point where outside help is required. The progression depends largely on the underlying cause, whether it be Alzheimers disease, Lewy body disease, Parkinsons disease, or some other root condition. While people will experience the stages of dementia differently, most will exhibit some of the symptoms. On average, dementia patients will live four to eight years after their diagnosis, although some live as long as 20 years after being diagnosed.Does Dementia Only Affect Seniors?Dementia is more commonly diagnosed in people over 65, but it can affect people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. The estimated average age of onset of dementia in the U.S. is 83+ years old.How Can We Help After A Dementia Diagnosis?If someone has been diagnosed with dementia, its important to know there are expert resources available to both you and your family members that can help you navigate the progression of the disease. The sooner you familiarize yourself with them, the better. As Certified Dementia Practitioners, the advisors at Senior Care Authority can help you decide on the right help at the right time, including setting up in-home visits, scheduling respite care, learning important communication skills, and helping you decide on an assisted living situation, should that be warranted. It is so important to remember that you are not alone. We have helped hundreds of families respond to the challenges of a dementia diagnosis, and we can do the same for you, too. To find out more about the symptoms of dementia and how we can help, get in touch with Senior Care Authority today.