A Beginner’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia
As the people in our lives get older, it’s natural for their mental and physical abilities to slip a little from time to time. Maybe they can’t quite recall that one neighbor’s name, or they decide to finally hire someone else to mow the lawn. But when does normal aging cross the line into the early signs of dementia? And when is it time to consider assisted living?
In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month this November, we’re taking a moment to talk about dementia: what it is, what to expect, and how a senior care advisor can help your family find the best support. A dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of good days for your loved one—with the right senior living community, you can still enjoy plenty of meaningful moments and happy times together.
What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific form of dementia, accounting for 60–70% of all cases. One of the major physical characteristics of this disease is the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques are clusters of protein buildups between neurons, and tangles are knots of nerve cells. Together, these issues lead to tissue loss and signs of cognitive deterioration.
Dementia is a more general term for various symptoms of decline in a person’s cognitive function. There are many other causes and types of dementia, including:
- Lewy body dementia: associated with deposits of a protein (Lewy bodies) that form in the brain and affect brain chemistry
- Vascular dementia: changes in the brain resulting from blocked or reduced blood flow
- Frontotemporal dementia: characterized by nerve cell loss in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE): common in athletes, and associated with repeated head injuries throughout a person’s lifetime
What Are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Often, dementia begins with what seems like ordinary forgetfulness. But when forgetfulness interferes with daily life, it’s no longer a normal part of aging. A forgotten name here or a missed appointment there may not be cause for alarm. But if you notice a consistent pattern of memory loss, especially if it involves skipped medications or missed bills, it may be time to arrange for a professional assessment.
Trouble with Reasoning & Judgment
The first signs of change may become evident when it comes time to take on a complex task. Whether that task is organizing a party or learning a new skill at work, difficulty thinking or frequent confusion can be a red flag. Judgment problems can also affect a person’s driving capabilities. Frequent accidents, dings and scratches on the car, or getting lost on familiar routes are common early signs of developing dementia.
Changes in Hygiene or Other Personal Tasks
If your loved one has always been a little lax with their hygiene and housekeeping, that likely isn’t going to change in their later years. But a noticeable decline in their showering habits, personal grooming, or household chores could be a symptom of dementia. They may be unable to perform the activities of daily living that they once could, in which case senior care could be the best option for their safety and well-being.
Orientation & Mobility Issues
It’s normal for older adults to have a little more trouble getting around the house than they used to. But dizziness and balance problems are more serious issues. If your loved one has trouble getting up, sitting down, or walking around, they may need extra assistance. Watch, too, for any unexplained bruises that could be signs of unreported trips or falls.
Mood, Behavior, and Communication Changes
It’s common for people with dementia to have difficulty communicating what they mean to the people around them. Watch for consistent trouble finding the right words, uncertainty or confusion when performing familiar tasks, and changes in their personality, like a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed.
What is the Best Care for a Person with Dementia?
Assisted living communities with dedicated dementia care or memory care facilities have a number of benefits. Skilled caregivers at these homes understand exactly how to manage the symptoms of dementia, and they can keep a close watch on the disease’s progression over time.
From managing medications to helping them with everyday grooming and mobility tasks, the nurses at assisted living communities are there to provide quality care 24/7. And when you aren’t the sole caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you have more emotional bandwidth to support them in the other ways that matter most: being a loving presence in their life.
Assisted living residents also benefit from specialized programs designed to maximize their remaining abilities and stimulate their minds with meaningful activities. Remember that social isolation is a major concern for older adults. Quality memory care communities ensure that your loved one feels connected through common areas, group activities, and consistent caregiver relationships.
Find a Senior Living Community for Dementia Care
Receiving a dementia diagnosis for a loved one is never easy. But you don’t have to go through the process alone. At CarePatrol, our senior care advisors are here to help you find the perfect senior living solution for your family.
They’ll be with you every step of the way: assessing the necessary level of care, touring vetted communities with you, coordinating move-in day, and checking in with you periodically after the transition. If you’re not sure whether it’s time to consider assisted living, take our short assessment today!
CarePatrol: Helping You Find the Best Community for Your Senior Loved One
Finding memory and dementia care can be a stressful process for seniors and their families. But CarePatrol’s senior care advisors have vetted thousands of assisted living facilities and nursing homes nationwide, and we’re ready to help you find the perfect fit. Best of all, our services are offered at no charge to you.