Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Normal Aging

Thought for the day: A person with dementia does not necessarily have Alzheimer’s but a person with Alzheimer’s definitely has dementia.

As we age, just as our bodies start to physically slow down so too does our brain. It is natural for it to take longer for us to retrieve memories, process questions, solve problems etc. as we get older. It is not normal however for us to forget things altogether or not to be able to generally deal with activities of daily living. That is usually an indication of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. MCI is a term used to describe when a person has memory or other thinking problems greater than normal for someone their age and education. Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily living.

Like a fever or a stomach ache, dementia, is the symptom not the underlying cause. There are well over a hundred causes of dementia. Some are reversible. Some dementias are caused by onetime events and do not progress. Others get worse over time (are progressive). Dementias caused by urinary tract infections (UTI’s) , dehydration, thyroid problems or certain vitamin deficiencies are often easily reversible. Memory loss associated with a stroke (or other vascular issues) is the typical irreversible non progressive dementia example. Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent dementia cause (it accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases) and it is progressive (Parkinson’s related dementia is another progressive type).

Because each type of dementia cause is different, it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis. Dehydration might just require more liquid or a trip to hospital for an IV. An UTI will need antibiotics. Vascular dementia may not require any medication but attention to the underlying heart or vascular problem so another stroke does not occur causing more damage. Even with the progressive types, the medical treatment is different for those with Alzheimer’s than for those with Parkinson’s or Huntington’s. etc.

For most of the progressive types, there is no cure. But there are medications that can slow the progress. Also, there is great benefit to understanding the general progression because the way a caregiver approaches a loved one during the different stages is different. For example, in the later stages of Alzheimer’s it is inappropriate to correct the patient or to constantly ask them if they remember who you are. Behaviors like this only agitate them and cause them to feel bad.

Over the next few months, we will be discussing Alzheimer’s in a little more detail. In the interim, to find out more about Dementia and Alzheimer’s see our website or go to ALZ.ORG (the website for the Alzheimer’s Association). They have a wealth of information on those two topics with links to the primary sites associated with some of the other major dementias (eg Parkinson’s related dementia).

Frieda & Arthur Moseley, In-home care providers
Frieda & Arthur Moseley, In-home care providers
Arthur Moseley and his wife Frieda are the owners of the Tampa and Pasco Offices of Griswold Home Care, one of the area’s leading referrers of non medical private pay home care services (the caregivers they refer provide companionship, homemaking services and personal care). NR30211139 NR30211332

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