You’re 76 and are having memory problems beyond the occasional slip. Last month, you drove in circles for an hour because you forgot how to get home from the same grocery store where you’ve shopped for three decades...You’re 57 and still rising in your career. At least you were rising up until the last six months when you were told that you are upsetting clients because you’ve become short tempered.
...The actual location of our home may be dynamic rather than static—ever-changing as our personal world changes. Yet the meaning of home remains the same: a place of comfort. 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.
Dear Carol: My mother has severe spine and knee problems and should be using a walker but she refuses. She’s only in her 60s and she says a walker makes her look old. She also complains that a walker keeps her from getting close enough to the cupboards and sink to cook, which is something that she loves. I admit that they are bulky and get in the way. They also keep her from carrying dishes around and I understand that. Still, she’s taking a terrible chance. When she’s having a lot of trouble she will use a cane, but that doesn’t do enough. Her mind is fine but, apparently, her ego just can’t take this blow. I know that she fights pain, but the worst seems to be her bitterness over her disability being seen by others as well as the inconvenience of using a walker. How do I convince her that safety is more important than some inconvenience or presenting a youthful look? CD
When the average person thinks of dementia, generally Alzheimer’s disease comes to mind. At the same time, the person will likely think of memory loss. Both of these conclusions are understandable since Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and memory issues are often, though not always, the first symptom of that disease. Surprising then, to many people, is the fact that there may be earlier indicators of potential Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia than frequent memory lapses.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be the most common type of dementia, but AD is followed closely by vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), mixed dementia, frontotemporal dementia and many more types. Therefore, while your family doctor may correctly diagnose dementia, he or she may not have the background to correctly target treatment for a specific type.
This is important because some treatments that are helpful for one type of dementia may actually be harmful with another. A specialist is likely the best person to determine if dementia is present and what type of dementia that may be.
Studies show that many diseases affect ethnic groups differently, with a larger percentage of some groups than others expected to develop these diseases over time. Recently, the first ever study to expand its research with dementia, particularly Alzheimer's, beyond the Black and Caucasian communities has published data that should make us all pay attention. Six ethnic and racial groups within the same geographic population were studied. The groups are considered to represent the diversity of the U.S.
Too much emphasis on the negative aspects of aging has encouraged society to believe that all older people are on the verge of dementia and a drain on families and the economy rather than a treasured resource of wisdom and experience. Yes, aging brains think differently. Recall slows and those frustrating times when a word escapes the aging brain become more frequent. Aging bodies may become more prone to disease, causing these little cognitive slips to arouse even more suspicion among family members.
Twenty-five years ago, my aunt and uncle moved from the Washington, D.C. area to be with my family here on the Great Plains. One of the few complaints that I heard from my aunt about the move was that when she went to their new bank, the tellers called her by her first name. To someone of her generation, a younger person should have been calling her Mrs. Kelly. Yes, she understood their intent and she now lived in a more open, friendlier community than before, but she felt that first names lacked dignity. Additionally, while she was obviously aging, her mind was quick and her memory accurate. All she wanted was a little respect.
Of course, we don't always make the right call regarding every circumstance. But we do our best. I'd hazard a guess that the most painful decision for most of us to make is whether or not it's in our loved one's best interests to place him or her in a nursing home. If it is also in our best interest, then the guilt looms even larger.
Dear Carol: I’m 69-years-old and widowed. My76-year-old single sister has advanced osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis, and lung disease. I cared for her in my home for over seven years. My health is deteriorating and my doctor has warned me that, if I don’t change my caregiving situation, I’m in for big health issues. My sister said that she understood, so six months ago she moved into a nursing home. The facility is lovely and the staff is great. The staff members have told me that she has made friends and, considering her health, does very well. When I observe her, I see that she’s great with others, but her attitude toward me has changed. I visit daily and bring her everything she wants, but she piles guilt on me and complains about her life. Now, I have a chance to take a week-long trip with a friend to a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I told my sister about this opportunity and she’s pouting. She says to go but then acts hurt. Her caregivers tell me that she’ll be just fine. I want to take this trip. It's finally a chance for some real fun, but how do I enjoy it under these circumstances? TR