Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Five Things to Know About Dementia

Hello there all,

I have a topic to talk about today that is very near and dear to my heart, but it is also a subject that so many try to avoid because of its devastating inevitability. And I hate to break it to you guys, but the truth of the matter is that if your life has not already been affected by dementia then it is going to happen to you real soon. There are a staggering amount of statistics everywhere alluding to the startling fact that 33% of our seniors are going to be inflicted with dementia. This is disgustingly alarming, and if you are interested, here is a very short video loaded with information about dementia and what it means for America.

However, I thought it would be helpful to create something that isn't just information about our impending situation but create something that could be of service and assistance to those in the future. This is where I thought of the idea for Five Things to Know About Dementia.

1.) No, it isn't just about forgetting. Dementia is the malfunctioning of the brain, so this disables the ability of making connections. This may mean forgetting where their keys are in the beginning stages of the disease, but it looks more like losing sequencing knowledge of how to brush your teeth later on. Further down the disease, the brain stops being able to make connections to swallow food or how to fight infections. This is why the disease is terminal.

2.) Nobody exhibits the same behaviors and everyone progresses individually. The saying in the dementia field is "if you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia." This is because behaviors and symptoms are so individualized and based according to our individual uniqueness as people. As we are all different, the way that our brain works is individualized and the way that it degenerates and where it does is also individualized.Yes, there are helpful symptoms to look out for, but everybody demonstrates a varying degree and multitude of these symptoms. They also will probably develop their own individual set of behaviors.

Additionally, the progression for the disease varies greatly for some people. It can be something that is diagnosed and the person passes within 6 months, or it can be something that can last for years.

3.) Live in the reality of the person with Dementia. The person is already going through such an altered state of reality that we need to live and assist them in that reality. Do not argue with them about their reality because then you become someone that is calling them a liar. If they tell you that they already showered, they really think they showered. This is where the use of "fiblets" or "therapeutic fibbing" comes along. You would use these in situations where an individual is dealing with a troublesome situation created by their altered reality, and you tell them something to assist them to deal with that reality. For example, if someone is looking for their mother and their mother has been deceased for 50+ years, you do not tell the individual that their loved one is dead. You give them information like "she is at the grocery store." Otherwise,you are forced to tell an individual that their loved one is dead over and over again. Imagine the traumatic experience of dealing with the pain of losing someone over and over again! If you uncover such truths, this is the reality that you are creating for the person with Dementia.

4.) Flexibility is key. For each individual, everyday is new and every adventure is new, so they need individuals to be patient and understand that this is something different and a little nerve wracking. Throughout the progression of the disease, your sentimental items are probably going to disappear from their locations because the inflicted individual is probably going to hide the object, give away the object, or not recognize the object and put it in an "inappropriate" location. It happens and unfortunately there isn't anything to be done. Keep priceless heirlooms hidden, but also be flexible with some objects flying away.

5.) They are doing the best that they can with what they have. Right now, they are living in a crazy, hazy world where things are not what they seem and unfamiliar places seem too familiar, so they do things deemed "inappropriate". However, they are trying to be the person that they once were with what they have. It is very difficult for them to live the life that they once had, but they are trying! These people went from being fully functional adults and are forced to regress back in ways that they don't even notice. Remembering the fact that they are trying will help through most rough days.

Knowing these things really equips you for dealing with most of the obstacles  of the disease. As it is something that will be incredibly prevalent soon, it is important to educate ourselves and others on what to expect.

-Autumn (Memory Care Life Enrichment Coordinator for the past 2 years)