Dementia Guide: Symptoms and Care

To learn more about our non-profit continuing care community on Skidaway Island, GA, please call us today at 800-889-6238 or request a brochure.

When an aging loved one starts showing signs of dementia, it can be a hard thing for the other family members to accept. One of the most common reasons for this is the fact that few family members really understand what is going on with their loved one.

This guide, from The Marshes of Skidaway Island's Savannah senior housing community, will help you learn more about dementia, its symptoms, and your care options so you can have a better grasp of what your loved one is going through and how to help them as much as possible.

What is Dementia?

For years it was believed that memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion were a normal part of the aging process. But, modern research has proven that most adults tend to retain their alertness and cognition well into their older years.

Dementia is not actually a singular disease. Instead, it is a term that is used to describe a number of symptoms related to a neurological disorder in the brain. The disorder is typically caused by damage or disease within the brain.

While Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common diseases associated with dementia (and at times commonly used as a synonym for dementia), one can have dementia and not have Alzheimer's.

Symptoms of Dementia

When someone suffers from dementia, they will usually suffer from one or more of the following symptoms.

Short-Term Memory Loss - When someone has short-term memory loss, they are unable to remember recent events (as in things that just happened a few minutes ago), but they will be able to recall memories from well in their past.

Confusion - Confusion or disorientation is a common sign of early onset dementia. Here, your loved one may not know the current date or where they are despite being in a familiar place. In some cases, they may even forget who you are or their very own identity.

Speech and Comprehension Problems - A person with dementia will often have difficulty communicating because they tend to forget words or they will substitute words that make no sense in regards to what they're trying to say.

Impaired Ability to Perform Basic Tasks - If your loved one is unable to plan and execute basic tasks, such as cooking a meal, driving a car, or doing simple mental arithmetic, then this could be a sign of dementia. In most cases, the loved one will also prove unable to perform daily hygiene tasks, such as taking a bath, using the toilet, and getting dressed, and their lack of hygiene is a common early indicator that something is wrong.

Behavioral Changes - People with dementia will usually act out of character. While one person may become suddenly aggressive, another may start acting in inappropriate ways. These changes can occur suddenly and end abruptly and they can be one of the most distressing parts of trying to deal with a loved one's dementia symptoms.

Depression - Although depression has never been scientifically linked to dementia, most people with dementia do suffer from it. Unlike their behavioral changes, depression can be a much more serious issue as many sufferers start exhibiting dangerous symptoms like insomnia, withdrawal from society, weight loss, and suicidal thoughts.

Diagnosing Dementia

Currently, there is no single standard for testing for dementia within the medical field. Every specialist, including geriatric care internists, geriatric psychiatrists, and neurologists, utilizes their own testing mechanisms to diagnose dementia, although most do apply the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) within their testing phases. And, because dementia patients aren't aware of their cognitive problems, most doctors will have to involve family members in order to come to a diagnosis. This can often be a very stressful and frustrating time for the family, especially as they await the doctor's diagnosis.

Diagnosing dementia can be a lengthy process, partly because some medications can cause cognition problems. If your loved one is on a medication that can impair their cognition, then their specialist will usually stop that medication for a period of time to see whether or not your loved one's condition improves.

What Kind of Treatment Options are Available for Dementia Patients?

There is no outright cure for dementia. Instead, doctors tend to focus on treating the symptoms associated with it to help relieve some of the stress on both the patient and their caregiver. For instance, cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine is commonly prescribed to help improve cognitive function. Patients with muscular problems might be prescribed anti-Parkinson's medications. Or, if the patient exhibits behavioral problems, then antipsychotic drugs, antidepressant medications, or sedatives may be used.

There are also several non-drug treatment options to consider. Some patients achieve positive results through alternative therapies like massage therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, and regular exercise. All of these are designed to help the patient relax. Meanwhile, engaging in tasks involving plenty of mental activity, like working on puzzles, hobbies, or computer games has also been shown to help increase brain function and help prevent against brain shrinkage.

Dementia Care Out of the Home

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a financially overwhelming and emotionally and physically exhausting task. When it gets too hard for the caretaker to bear, out-of-home dementia care is always an option. Today, senior living facilities offer state-of-the-art dementia care services that can give your loved one the expert care they need in a safe and secure environment.

Need Dementia Care for a Loved One? Visit The Marshes' Savannah Senior Housing Community

It's not easy being a caregiver for a loved one suffering from dementia. But, help is available. At The Marshes of Skidaway Island, we offer experienced and compassionate dementia care that can provide your loved one with the services and assistance they need to enjoy the best quality of life possible.

To learn more about The Marshes of Skidaway Island, or to schedule a visit to our luxurious Savannah senior housing community, please call us today at 800-889-6238.