What is dementia – are dementia and Alzheimer’s different?
They are both often thought to be the same thing.
Kay has written a guest blog addressing this question and also offers some advice following her own personal experience of the conditions.
When dad was diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s” and mum with “vascular dementia”, I was confused. How do they differ?
It turns out that dementia isn’t a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning, according to Mayo Clinic.
Many causes of dementia symptoms exist – Alzheimer‘s disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia.
Memory loss generally occurs in dementia, but memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia. Dementia indicates problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment or language.
Dementia can make you confused and unable to remember people and names. You also may experience changes in personality and social behavior.
At first, I noticed that my mum would repeat herself, and my dad was less talkative and seemed depressed. Both of my parents had changing behaviours, which was a signal that something was wrong. It took me several years to finally get my parents tested and diagnosed.
I hope you will consider that any change in a loved one could be an early warning signal to a future more complicated medical or cognitive issue, some which might be reversible. The more you can do early, the better off everyone will be.
What are some signs and symptoms of dementia?
In general, dementia is a collection of symptoms including memory loss, personality change, and impaired intellectual functions that results from disease or trauma to the brain. The changes are not part of normal ageing and are severe enough to impact daily living, independence, and relationships.
With dementia, there will likely be noticeable decline in communication, learning, remembering, and problem solving. These changes may occur quickly or very slowly over time.
The progression, symptoms, and changes to every individual diagnosed with varies, but are largely determined by the type of dementia and which area of the brain is affected.
Diagnosis is possible through advanced brain imaging, clinical examinations, and diagnostic testing. However, in many cases, it may not be quickly diagnosed. If you notice something is wrong, keep trying until you find a doctor that can assist you and your loved ones in finding the cause of the changes you are noticing.
Someone told me several years ago…
If you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia.
The types of dementia, how fast they progress, and when and how behaviour, memory, and general cognitive function change, vary from person to person. While my dad got quieter as his Alzheimer’s progressed, I’ve met others with Alzheimer’s who are chatty as well as others who are combative.
My first suggestion to anyone beginning this journey is to meet with a solicitor to get your personal papers in order. At some point, an advocate will need to step in to manage your personal affairs and medical decisions.
There is no time like the present.