What is Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive cognitive syndrome (a collection of symptoms). It may be caused by disease or by damage to the brain. The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem solving and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. These difficulties occur because nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain involved in cognitive function have been damaged or destroyed.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease, neurons in other parts of the brain are eventually damaged or destroyed as well, including those that enable a person to carry out basic bodily functions such as walking and swallowing. People in the final stages of the disease are bed-bound and require around-the-clock care. Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.
Other types of dementia include Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Fronto-Temporal Dementia (FTD), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Mixed Dementia. Dementia symptoms may also be caused by Parkinson’s Disease or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.
There is no single test for Alzheimer’s. Instead, physicians, often with the help of specialists such as neurologists and geriatricians, use a variety of approaches and tools to help make a diagnosis. They include the following:
• Obtaining a medical and family history from the individual, including psychiatric history and history of cognitive and behavioral changes.
• Asking a family member to provide input about changes in thinking skills and behavior.
• Conducting cognitive tests and physical and neurologic examinations.
• Having the individual undergo blood tests and brain imaging to rule out other potential causes of dementia symptoms, such as a tumor or certain vitamin deficiencies. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s requires a careful and comprehensive medical evaluation. Although physicians can almost always determine if a person has dementia, it may be difficult to identify the exact cause. Several days or weeks may be needed for the individual to complete the required tests and examinations and for the physician to interpret the results and make a diagnosis.
Being a caregiver for a loved one living with dementia can be very overwhelming. You are not alone! There are a lot of resources available online that can help you better understand the disease, its progression and how to approach caregiving. Here are some that we recommend:
Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org/
Dementia Care Notes: https://dementiacarenotes.in/
Alzheimer’s Disease International: https://www.alz.co.uk/
Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India: http://ardsi.org/
Dementia Care Approach at Epoch
At Epoch, we take the time to understand each resident living with dementia at a personal level. Right from the time of admission, we ask the family to share their loved one’s preferences, daily routines and any challenging behaviors that they may exhibit as a result of their condition. Our trained staff review this information and incorporate it into the individualized care plan that is used to guide day-to-day caregiving. Caring for someone with dementia can often be a challenge. Simple tasks such as giving a shower or eating a meal become particularly difficult. Our team uses evidence-based methods to care for residents living with dementia to ensure they receive the highest quality of care in the most comfortable manner.