Forgetfulness, repetitive behavior, loss of focus – white hair, wrinkled skin and limped walk, this is how we associate Dementia to old age i.e. it’s as natural and unavoidable as old age is. Unfortunately a lot of us don’t even know that our declining mental ability is an onset towards a possible disease called dementia. It’s not because we have grown old but because there has been a death of our brain cells or damage in parts of the brain that deal with our thought processes and this can happen at any age.
In literal terms,‘Dementia’ is a decline in mental ability which affects memory, thinking, problem-solving, concentration and perception. Usually in Pakistan, this occurs or apparently we seem to observe this in older people more than our younger lot. We start putting them off, we get agitated, frustrated over petty things because it’s really hard to go over everything again and again multiple times in a day.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe several conditions. More than mere forgetfulness, an individual must have trouble with at least two of the following cognitive areas to be diagnosed with dementia:
- Communication and speech
- Focus and concentration
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception (including trouble detecting movement, differentiating colors, or experiencing hallucinations)
- Subtle short-term memory changes
- Remembering events that took place years ago but not what they had for breakfast
- Forgetting where they left an item or remembering why they entered a particular room
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Struggling to communicate thoughts.
- Difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves.
- Changes in mood
- Mood changes
- Shift in personality – shift from being shy to outgoing.
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities.
- Not wanting to go out anymore or do anything fun.
- Losing interest in spending time with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.
5. Difficulty completing normal tasks
- A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks
- Difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.
- Struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
8. A failing sense of direction
- The sense of direction and spatial orientation commonly starts
- Not recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forgetting regularly used directions
- Difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.
9. Being repetitive
- Person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may
collect items obsessively.
- Repeating the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.
10. Struggling to adapt to change
- Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what
others are saying.
- They can’t remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home.
Understanding and dealing with dementia is important to ensure we provide quality care to our loved ones suffering from it in silence. Our failure to give them the due care is a pitiful situation more for us because we fail to cherish their presence like they did when we were little.
- Set a positive mood for interaction. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
- Get the person’s attention. Limit distractions and noiseMake sure you have their attention; address them by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep them focused.
- State your message clearly. Use simple words and sentences. Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a reassuring tone.Use the names of people and places instead of pronouns (he, she, they) or abbreviations.
- Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices.
- Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved one’s reply. If theyare struggling for an answer, it’s okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately.
- Break down activities into a series of steps. You can encourage your loved one to do what they can, gently remind them of steps they tend to forget, and assist with steps they no longer are able to accomplish on their own.
- When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject or the environment.It is important to connect with the person on a feeling level, before you redirect.
- Remember the good old days. Avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, Instead ask general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.
- Maintain your sense of humor. Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person’s expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.