To our colleagues at adult residential care facilities – Some of you have mentioned that it would be helpful to receive content that you can share with residents’ families through your website and newsletter. This article is designed for that purpose. Feel free to copy and paste it into your own communications as you see fit.
If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may be wondering what to expect and how you can help. Although dementia is challenging for families, there are steps you can take to help your loved one stay safe and comfortable.
The CDC says dementia is not a specific disease but a general term to describe impaired memory, cognition, and decision making. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, whereas other causes include Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia.
In 2014, approximately 5 million adults over the age of 65 had dementia. By 2060, this number is expected to rise to 14 million. Despite the high prevalence of dementia, it is not considered a normal part of aging.
Dementia impacts cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, problem solving, and communication. The CDC says common signs of dementia include getting lost in a familiar neighborhood and using unusual words to refer to familiar objects.
If a loved one has been forgetting things more often or having trouble functioning independently, a medical assessment may be necessary to determine whether dementia is the cause. Although this may be frightening, a diagnosis can help you make plans and ensure your loved one receives appropriate care. Additionally, some causes of dementia symptoms may be reversible, such as medications and a thyroid hormone imbalance.
Communicating with someone who has dementia can be frustrating – even heartbreaking. People may forget things they should know (including who you are) and may become confused, agitated, or angry.
Try to be understanding. Remember, if a loved one forgets who you are, it’s because of the disease, not because he or she doesn’t love you. The National Institute on Aging has several suggestions to make communication easier, including:
The cognition problems associated with dementia can lead to accidents and injuries. For example, someone with dementia may forget to turn off the stove and cause a fire or wander from home, become lost, and fall down. When in danger, people with dementia may not remember how to get help. Even if they think to call 911, they might not remember their address to tell the operator.
The National Institute on Aging recommends certain steps to create an Alzheimer’s-safe home, such as:
For more tips, see the National Institute on Aging.
You may not be able to provide the level of care and supervision a loved one with dementia needs. For his or her safety and wellbeing, you may need to move your loved one to a residential care facility. Your loved one may already be in such a facility when the dementia develops – this doesn’t mean you can’t play a hands-on role in making sure your loved one is comfortable.