As our loved ones get older, it can be tough to see them age. Whether it is physically or mentally, the decline in functionality can be difficult to cope with—not just for your loved one, but you as well.
The Scott & White Program on Aging and Care has a team of individuals who offer support services to those who need help. Laura Morgan, RN, MSN is the research manager of the program and says dementia is one of the disorders you often see in aging adults.
She says dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning to an extent that it affects a person’s daily functioning. This means the person may lose his thinking, reasoning, or memory skills to an extent that it alters his life. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older adults.
Does My Loved One Have Dementia?
“Problem with memory is usually the first sign people notice,” says Morgan.
You may see your loved one having trouble performing common tasks, such as handling money or recognizing familiar places. Family members may notice mood and personality changes.
“As the disease progresses, the person will have increased difficulty with complex tasks and may have hallucinations or delirium,” explains Morgan. “Eventually, people with AD are unable to communicate or care for themselves.”
If you think these symptoms sound familiar, turn to your doctor. The diagnosis of dementia is often made when family members notice memory problems and changes in mood or behavior.
“Early diagnosis is the key to receiving the most benefit from currently available treatments that may help preserve function, although the underlying disease process cannot be altered,” says Morgan.
How can we Cope?
Dealing with problem behaviors can be stressful and is a skill that must be learned.
It takes good communication skills and consistent responses from family members and caregivers. This patience is essential to the quality of the relationship with the person who has dementia.
“Caregivers and family members of persons with dementia should not feel alone,” says Morgan. “Creating a strong network of social support is extremely important for getting through all the good and bad days.”
She suggests contacting the local Area Agency on Aging (available by dialing 2-1-1 in Texas), the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, or other resources and support services in your area.
Is there any Hope?
If you’re looking for hope, consider getting involved.
Participation in clinical trials is an important step you can take to help in the fight against AD and dementia. The National Institute on Aging can provide information about current clinical trials: (800) 438-4380 or http://www.nia.nih.gov/. You can also consider donating through the Alzheimer’s Association.
As you participate, you may help many others who are also looking for answers about dementia now or in years to come.