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10 Things About Dementia That You Wish You Knew Earlier!

  Dementia is a a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorde...

Dementia is a a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.

It’s very sad to see a relative, loved one or friend deteriorate from the effects of dementia, but the truth is that there is much to be learned about the category of brain diseases that even caregivers wish they knew when they first started. Here are 10 things about dementia that you wish you knew earlier:

1. Arguing isn’t worth it

As easy as it is to get frustrated and angry with someone who has dementia, you need to keep in mind that you will never, ever get anywhere with them, and this is because it actually changes brain function, structure and ability.

2. Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away

During the early stages of dementia, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s just a phase, or hope that the symptoms will go away, but this could actually delay a clear diagnosis being made. If it’s you that has the symptoms, be brave and schedule an appointment with your doctor. If it’s someone who’ near and dear to you that has them, you should prepare yourself for what is to come and give them the best support you can.

3. More medications often lead to more confusion

Over-medicating with a whole range of different drugs can cause a patient to become disorientated and suffer memory loss. On your next doctor’s visit, take a list of all the medications that your loved one is taking with you, and ask them if the consumption of each one is still necessary. This should include any vitamins or supplements. You need to ensure that the medication is helping, rather than hurting, your loved one.

4. Validation therapy can do a lot of good

Reality is different for those who are living with dementia than it is for those who are not. Validation therapy involves adjusting one’s focus in order to see the world through a dementia patient’s eyes. A practical example of applying validation therapy is to allow a dementia patient to speak about their mother for five minutes in spite of her passing away decades ago. Being tolerant of a how a dementia patient sees the world can make the day a whole lot better – both for you and for them.

5. It’s never too late to work on improving brain health

Although it’s true the dementia won’t go away once it’s diagnosed and that it generally will present itself in a progressive decline, there are numerous brain health strategies that can be implemented to improve a patient’s mental state. Physical exercise, mental activity and meaningful activities can go a long way toward maintaining and even improving brain health and cognitive function.

6. Share your struggles and be open to receiving help

Caregivers often end up caring for a dementia patient alone. They are usually unaware of how exhausted they are, and that’s normally irrelevant to them anyway because of the job at hand. If you’re a caregiver, you should know that there are many resources for dementia care – from 24 hour helplines to practical resources for your specific situation and community. Caregivers who receive support usually look back and are thankful that they sought it out.

7. Choose one small thing to do for yourself

If you’re a caregiver, you should make an effort to devote a little time to yourself, just so you can “refill your tank” of caregiver energy. Ideas for doing this include 20 minutes of quiet time when you listen to music, going for a walk or having a stretch for 5 or 10 minutes. You can even call a sympathetic family member to de-stress.

8. Pick and choose priorities, and let other things go

Your focus should always be on what’s important in a given moment. Taking this approach means that you’ll rarely go wrong if you ask yourself if the challenge you’re facing in the present will be more important in a month from now or not, and take actions accordingly. Letting go of some pressures and expectations will save your sanity and reduce frustration.

9. 20 minutes can feel like a whole day

People who have dementia can often become anxious, agitated and combative when you’re doing something as simple as helping them with their activities of daily living, such as brushing their teeth. For instance, in the event that the patient starts to protest loudly and put up resistance, it’s a great idea to move them to a different room and give them chance to calm down. Music helps greatly with this. After 20 minutes or so, you can try the daily living activity with them once again.

10. Have difficult conversations about medical decisions

It’s not easy thinking about an uncertain future after a dementia diagnosis, but difficult conversations need to be had about medical decisions, power of attorney documents and so on. The sooner these things take place, the better it will be for everyone involved. This is because when the time comes for tough choices to be made, than you will know that you are honoring the dementia patient’s wishes.