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What is Dementia and Alzheimer's?
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Tales of a lost mind  

Dementia and Alzheimer’s can be a very scary disease. Alzheimer's especially can be hard on the patient, more so in the beginning because they know what is coming and it is the fear of forgetting their loved ones, forgetting themselves, their memories and ultimately how to live and how to breathe. It is a very stressful time, until the mind has lost the memories and they no longer know their state. This is when it is typically hardest on the family members. Visiting and being a stranger to their loved ones.  Dementia also has its frustrations, and can present slightly different than late stages of Alzheimer's disease. 

When the patient with dementia is living with family, it can especially be difficult if the client wanders and gets confused. They can get anxious, confused and combative. There is a risk of getting hurt when they wander. There was a gentleman in our community, that was being cared for in the family’s home. He suffered from Alzheimer's. He was reported missing, as he wandered away from the home, and was found two days later in a field, down. He had died from the elements.  

Alzheimer’s memory care units are growing as this population needs a higher level of care, but unfortunately they are very expensive or there are not any vacancies. These are beautiful homes and a safe place to call home. They have come a long way from Alzheimer units with the memory care homes, and Green houses. Green House homes offer small, self-contained houses with 10 to 12 private bedrooms and  private bathrooms for each elder they have  specially trained staff of versatile workers who serve as managers of the home, operating principles that focus on the elders’ needs for nurture, choice, and recognition of individual interests and preferences, an emphasis on respectful relationships among all people who live and work in the home. If this may be something a friend or family member may need, start investigating and get on a waiting list ASAP. This could be a life saver when it is time to look at moving in to a memory home or an Alzheimer unit depending on what level of care they need. 

I knew a very neat couple, and they both developed dementia and Alzheimer’s at the same time. They were moved from their home and placed in the nursing home where they shared a room. Time went along, and not too much occurred until one evening. Lorraine called her son, Gene in the middle of the night. “Gene, Gene!” exclaimed Lorraine. “Yes, Mother what is wrong?” Lorraine whispers, “There is a strange man in my room! Call the police!” “Mother that is just dad, he sleeps in the same room as you” Very confused, Lorraine states angrily, “Who is this? Why are you calling me in the middle of the night?!!” and hangs up the phone. We find humor now into that sad situation, but this is a typical thing in the life of dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

My parents had a friend that had dementia, and the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He was moved into a memory care unit. He always thought the dining room was a café. He states to my father, “You know, I just love this café. The food is so good. And everyone else must really love it too, because they just keep coming back every day!” He was not aware, those lived in the unit. 

I recommend the book listed below, if you are going through living with a loved one suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s, or know someone that is. 

 “Contented Dementia” by Oliver James. This is a fabulous read, by a licensed psychologist. He describes a practical method for managing dementia. I did a presentation on this to a local Hospice. Let me know if you would like more information. This book is available on amazon.com

Clinical data/Education: 

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

      Dementia is a Latin word meaning away from the mind. Dementia is a fatal illness that affects ten percent of those over the age of sixty-five. Most of the dementia's are progressive leading to many neurological and other disorders. There are many types of dementia, over sixty causes of dementia, some reversible and some not. Dementia is described as any disease that results in death of neurons with symptoms of memory loss and cognitive deficits. The risk jumps up from thirty to fifty percent at age eighty-five. Alzheimer’s disease is involved in sixty percent of dementia's, because there are so many types of dementia; the reversible causes should be ruled out before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are the most common dementia’s and can co-occur. Dementia is also referred to as early Alzheimer’s; untreated depression has been found to lead to this. (Institute for Natural Resources, 2008)

    There are many irreversible dementia's; the following will discuss some of the most common. The next four dementia's make up ninety-seven percent of all dementia's.  Alzheimer is originated from a German neurologist named Alois Alzheimer. Alzheimer’s affects fifty percent of those over eighty-five, and it is a cognitive disorder. The 2 types of Alzheimer's are early onset and late onset. Early onset occurs in the forties or fifties and is mostly genetic. Low acetylcholine, a degenerated hippocampus and shrinkage of the cerebral cortex follow Alzheimer’s disease.  Later stages result in total loss of self and self-awareness, sometimes with movement disorders. The life expectancy from diagnosis is approximately 8-10 years, usually ending with aspiration pneumonia. (Institute for Natural Resources, 2008) Parkinson’s disease is another type of dementia. Parkinson’s is seen in eight percent of clients with dementia, and most deaths from this disease occur before the end stage of the disease. Parkinson’s is marked by low dopamine; Lewy bodies which are aggregations of proteins develop in the motor neurons which lead to movement disorders and tremors. Gait and balance can also be severely impaired. Gait is defined as the manner or style of walking in humans and animals. In the late stages walking, talking and basic activities of daily living are also severely impaired.

Dementia is seen in the late stages. Dementia that occurs with Lewy bodies is like Parkinson’s disease in reverse. This disease presents with a dementia that can be accompanied by a Parkinsonism movement characterized by a shuffled gait, hunched over, drooling, and rubbing fingers together (pen rolling). Many dementia clients have a combination of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Lewy bodies Dementia. The fourth dementia is multi-Infarct or Vascular Dementia, which is also a progressive decline in mental functioning. Thirty-five percent of these clients have had related strokes. One third Alzheimer’s disease will have this dementia. Hypertension, diabetes, smoking and cardiovascular disease are risk factors for vascular dementia.

Two other types are more rare; Frontal-Temporal dementia and Huntington’s disease. Frontal-Temporal dementia presents with frontal lobe shrinkage and often the client has inappropriate social behaviors and inappropriate speaking behaviors. Huntington’s disease is being seen in more hospice cases. Some other irreversible dementias are Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which is a variant of mad cow disease. This is a very rare dementia type. Aids dementia complex, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cortical basal degeneration are other types of irreversible dementia.

Dementia Puglistica is also known as punchdrunk dementia. It is a progressive decline in mental function in the forties, through their sixties seen in boxers and those that have had multiple concussions or head traumas. This is something we may see more of . Football leagues are playing more of their players even with mild head injuries, and the sport of ultimate fighting has some dangerous repetitious hits to the heads, even after they are knocked out. Alcohol Dementia can lead to a serious dementia known as Korsakoff’s syndrome. This dementia is caused by the alcohol depleting most of the thiamine in the body and damages the hippocampus, which mimics Alzheimer’s disease.


2 blogger(s) are following this post, but not you. Follow?
  .   Louise Behiel
What I'm finding amazing as my mother goes through this journey is how unique Alzheimer's manifests in each person. Memory loss and cognitive deficits are the norm, but it's interesting how the loss of social filters, fears and paranoia show up. scary but interesting at the same time.
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