Usually, we think of dementia as a problem of memory. However it is actually more complex than that. Dementia can affect brain functions ranging from memory to language, from personality to problem solving. It can be extremely debilitating. Here are strategies that can help to improve daily life for a person with dementia and for their loved ones.
Dementia is a condition rather than a disease. It is caused by a variety of diseases, and often affects a person’s ability to communicate as effectively as they did previously. Dementia is usually progressive, meaning it gets worse over time, though depending upon the disease or event that caused it, it may be reversible in some cases.
Often when people think of dementia, they think of Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that disrupts typical cell function in the brain. The leading theory is that, in the case of Alzheimer’s, plaques and tangles, abnormal deposits and fibers build up in the brain; it is thought that these are at least major players in causing brain cell dysfunction and resulting cell death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, causing 60 to 80 percent of cases of dementia.
Dementia can affect language directly, whether by making it harder for a person to find the words they need or to structure sentences properly. It also can make it very hard for people to stay on topic and attend to their conversation partner. Additionally, typical social norms and pragmatics may be forgotten, ranging from forgetting a loved one’s name to forgetting typical social niceties, like saying, “thank you”.
Therapy should be targeted for an individual based on their profile of strengths and weaknesses and based on the cause of their dementia. There are some medications that can slow the progression of symptoms, and scientists continue to search for cures, particularly for Alzheimer’s, the most common diseases resulting in progressive dementia.
Until we advance as a scientific field, there are some things that we can do to help persons with dementia. Keeping your mind active can keep you sharp and help you to be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses. Constant Therapy’s tasks are a great way to keep your mind active, and our progress tracking can help you to see where you are on specific tasks.
Additionally, it’s important to stay up to date with your neurologist, who can help you seek out assistance from other various clinicians, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and counselors. We can help persons with dementia by providing written cues, or “hints”, that you can have on hand, and other compensatory strategies that will help in day-to-day life. Whether it’s creating a memory book for someone to be able to remember their important personal and family information, or teaching someone how to harness the powers of a smart phone to track appointments and important contact info, clinicians are essential in aiding persons with dementia. We also can teach strategies to assist in remembering import facts, such as repeating facts back to yourself after hearing them.
We also do a lot of family member and caregiver training in how best to support your loved one with dementia. Simple tricks, like speaking more slowly, presenting less information at once, or giving a person options rather than asking open-ended questions, can do wonders for communicating with someone with dementia.
Dementia can be an incredibly difficult condition to live with, whether you yourself have dementia, or you are watching a loved one’s dementia symptoms. Although we cannot yet reverse dementia’s tolls, we can assist you in dealing with them. Reach out for help today.