Alzheimer’s and dementia may differ, but they have a few things in common. Neither one is curable, and both require intensive 24/7 care in the later stages. Some assisted living homes offer special memory care services for people whose minds are affected by these terrible conditions.
Even though there is no cure, both Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms can be treated, and therapies are available to help. This is why it’s important that someone who has developed either condition receives care from qualified caregivers.
What is Dementia?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably when discussing a decline in mental state. However, this isn’t accurate because dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an umbrella term that covers a large variety of symptoms.
Contrary to what many people think, dementia is not actually age-related. Damage to brain cells inhibits their ability to communicate with one another, and this is a root of dementia. In fact, it’s extremely rare, but even people in their 20s can develop dementia. This is called onset dementia.
Some of the common dementia symptoms are:
- Worsening memory
- Changes in one’s ability to think and reason
- Lowered attention spans and ability to focus
- Behavior and language changes
What is Alzheimer’s?
Unlike dementia, Alzheimer’s is a brain disease and the most common way that dementia manifests. The changes in one’s brain that cause Alzheimer’s symptoms begin long before any symptoms are present.
Scientists still don’t know for sure what the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is, and there is currently no cure.
According to our current knowledge, scientists’ best guess at the cause of Alzheimer’s is a protein and plaque buildup around the millions of cells in the brain. These blockages prevent the cells from communicating properly, and eventually, the cells die off. This is a significant reason that Alzheimer’s symptoms continually worsen as the disease progresses.
Many people assume that Alzheimer’s is age-related. And there is a strong connection between age and the disease, but just like dementia, it’s not tied to age because even younger people can develop the disease. In fact, people will have Alzheimer’s for many years before showing any signs.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s are mostly the same as the dementia symptoms above but may also include:
- Trouble with vision—distance, colors, balance, reading, etc.
- Problems with speech and writing
- Inability to retrace steps
- Changing personality and overall mood
How You Can Help Someone Struggling With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Even without special training, there are things that you can do to help your loved one who develops Alzheimer’s or dementia. Depending on how much either is affecting their brain, it may be best to consult a physician who can advise on any particular things you can try.
Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Prevent or reduce frustration by creating a solid routine for yourself and your loved one.
- Expect that things may take longer and plan accordingly.
- Allow your loved one some choices (2 or 3 at most) in things, which helps them practice critical thinking and problem-solving.
- Be flexible—things are prone to changing unexpectedly regarding Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Ensure that the home of your loved one is safe. For example, minimize ways they can fall, lock dangerous rooms, cabinets, or drawers, and lower the house’s water temperature to prevent water burns.
Caring For Yourself
As important as the care of your loved one is, don’t neglect your personal care. Take time for yourself when you need it, even if it’s just for an afternoon to catch up on some running around. There are short-term respite care options—even for people with dementia.
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you likely won’t be able to care for your loved one properly.
If caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia becomes too much. There are special homes specifically designed for their needs. The communities are built for the safety of people with memory issues, and the staff receive special training to deal with the complications that may arise when helping someone with dementia.
Depending on the situation, there are short and long-term options out there.
Find Out More About How Memory Care Works
If you’re wondering about memory care options for your loved one, reach out to our office today. The friendly staff is happy to answer any questions and book a tour of the community so you and your loved one can see the quality of care you’ll receive.