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What's Going On with My Parent's Dementia?

Dealing with the news that your parent has been diagnosed with a long-term, progressive decline in mental ability, such as dementia, can be overwhelming. There are several things that you can do to ease this transition, such as educating about the stages of dementia, available treatments, and what to expect in the future to best support your parent's needs now and down the road.

What Can Cause Dementia?

Dementia is a broad term focusing on several conditions that impact a person's mental abilities and significantly interfere with their daily life.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease accounting for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
  • Vascular dementia: Dementia that can occur after a stroke, and is caused by a disruption in blood supply to the brain, consequently killing brain cells. Its progression is similar to Alzheimer's.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Another case of dementia is caused by protein clumps in the brain's cortex. Alongside memory loss and confusion, this type can lead to hallucinations and balance problems, posing risks of falls at home.
  • Other: There are other types like dementia associated with Parkinson's disease or Mixed Dementia, which has multiple contributing factors.

Medical professionals diagnose your parent's dementia through physical exams, mental status tests, neurological exams, and lab tests to define the causes of their symptoms. To ensure that the possible progression of the condition is carefully tracked, they will also define the severity or the stage of your parent’s dementia.  

Stages of Dementia

As previously mentioned, defining the stage of your parent’s dementia is necessary to ensure a proper treatment and attention given to the specific stage.

  1. Mild Cognitive Impairment: This is the first stage of dementia which is also often a sign that something serious might be going on. It is characterized by misplaced items, occasional forgetfulness, and trouble remembering words.
  2. Early-stage dementia: It is marked by noticeable memory problems, however, your parent might appear to function completely normally. Personality changes may occur, alongside difficulty remembering recent events and needing help with tasks like managing finances.
  3. Middle-stage Dementia: Daily tasks become challenging, which signals the need for daily intervention since the individual is not independent anymore. Memory and judgment worsen – putting the individual at risk for injury. They will require assistance with daily routines, medication management, and may become confused or agitated.
  4. Late-stage Dementia: It is characterized by significant memory loss and loss of communication abilities, consequently requiring care and support. The individual requires help with eating, dressing and regaining control of physical functions. 

Understanding these stages is vital for providing appropriate care and assistance to those affected and their families.

Dementia Treatment

While dementia cannot be cured, early diagnosis opens treatment options that can slow its progression, improving their quality of life.

Medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine can boost memory-related chemical messengers. Other medications can address symptoms like sleep disturbances and depression. Beyond medication, occupational therapy, environmental adjustments, and regular exercise can be beneficial. 

Ensure regular check-ups at your parent’s doctor and consult him about possible treatment options, best suited for your parent.

Dementia Care

As your parent's dementia worsens, you can support their treatment plan and help their day-to-day activities that are curated by dementia.

  • Monitor Medication Intake: Make sure that your parent is taking their prescribed medication and help them to easen that process.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Encourage recommended lifestyle changes such as exercise, and a healthy diet, and establish new routines to facilitate their favorite activities.
  • Establish Effective Communication: This may require patience and new techniques, such as maintaining eye contact and reducing distractions during conversations, but it is necessary for your help.
Consider Hiring Help

Caring for a loved one with dementia full-time can be emotionally and physically taxing. Remember that you don't have to shoulder the entire burden alone.

Seek support groups in your area and explore options for in-home care from companies. These services can assist with tasks like meal preparation, medication management, and dressing. They also offer respite care to give you a break from caregiving. In time, a private caregiver can assume a more permanent role in your parent's care as your responsibilities become overwhelming.

Credits:

What Is Dementia?
Vascular Dementia
Mayo Clinic: Lewy Body Dementia
Stages of Dementia
Dementia: Treatment

Founded in 2008, Ezra Home Care offers live-in home care, 24-hour care, and hourly senior care.
All our caregivers are state-certified and provide services like personal carehousekeepingcompanionship, help with medication, and transportation assistance. We've spent 15 years refining our caregiver selection process to ensure families' peace of mind. Reach out for details and quotes.

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