Dementia is not a single disease. It’s a non-specific syndrome that affects cognitive areas of the brain that control memory, language, attention and problem solving. To be considered dementia, the problems must be severe enough to affect daily living. Because Alzheimer’s is responsible for 50 to 60 percent of dementia cases, it’s the most broadly recognized form. However, there are up to 50 different known versions of dementia.
Fear and anxiety are two disturbing symptoms exhibited by many people with Alzheimer’s disease. These symptoms are completely understandable, considering the fact that people with dementia are often confused about their surroundings. Confusion that won’t go away leads to fear and fearful people tend to be anxious. This need to calm anxiety and feel safe can lead people with Alzheimer’s to a behavior called shadowing. As the term implies, shadowing is a behavior where people with dementia follow their primary caregiver as closely as a frightened child follows a parent.
Most of us who've cared for people with dementia have heard the sad, repetitive lament, "I want to go home." If the person lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, relatives naturally think that the home the elder wants to return to is the last place he or she lived before going to the care home. More likely, at least in the case of Alzheimer's disease, the home this elder misses is a childhood home. It's the home where he or she felt the comfort of a mother's arms; the safety of a father's protection.
We can’t truly understand what others go through unless we have been in their shoes. Fortunately for caregivers, the inventive Virtual Dementia Tour Program comes as close as anything can to helping caregivers – whether medical people, social workers or family members – understand what their loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are experiencing.
Dear Carol: I’m a longtime reader and know that you’ve addressed this issue before, but now it affects my family. I’m hoping that my sister will see this letter and respect your opinion. Our mother is in a nursing home because of late stage dementia. I spend a lot of time with Mom and my sister sometimes joins us. My sister thinks that Mom’s isn’t really “there” anymore so when she comes to visit she spends her time venting to me about whatever is bothering her. My sister’s voice gets shrill when she’s upset and she introduces tension in the room.
Could getting your teeth cleaned regularly prevent Alzheimer’s disease? There are, of course, no guarantees, but there has been significant research concluding that healthy gums means less inflammation in the body, which in turn lowers our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it does seem wise to consider good oral hygiene part of your healthy lifestyle.
If ever there’s a group of people who suffer deeply from unearned guilt it’s caregivers. Whether you’re the parent of a vulnerable adult, an adult child of aging parents or the spouse of a vulnerable adult, you are bound to have your “if only” times where you are sucked into the quicksand of guilt. The reality is that most things you could have done differently wouldn’t have made a huge difference overall. Even if another approach would have made a difference, you can’t go back. Staying mired in guilt is counterproductive for you as well as your care receiver.
Thirty-one people with Alzheimer's and 68 healthy control subjects participated in a study that used MRI scans to examine the hippocampus and thalamus regions of their brains. The scans showed that in the hippocampus region, the interaction of iron with amyloid proteins resulted in the protein toxicity, while the thalamus showed no such increase in iron levels or signs of tissue damage.
Frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These areas are generally associated with personality, behavior and language. A research team from the University of California, San Francisco, led by neuropsychologist Katherine Rankin, has shown that one sign people are developing frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is that they may have problems recognizing sarcasm in another’s speech. They also may find it more difficult to detect whether or not a person is lying.
Traditionally, most men have a harder time sharing feelings and emotions than women do. They seek medical advice less often than women and they tend to resist attending specialized support groups more than women. While the trend for younger men may be leading them toward a more open way of communicating, it’s the older generation whose wives have developed Alzheimer’s that is faced with caregiving. These men are often uncomfortable sharing confidences with people who they view as outsiders.