A dementia diagnosis can be devastating -- not only for the person with the disease, but for those who love him, too. “There’s a grieving that occurs. You haven’t lost your loved one, but the person you know is going to change,” says Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
If you or someone close to you has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, here are six steps to help you deal with the disease now and in the future.
It will get worse over time. But medications might slow that decline and help with symptoms, such as behavior changes.
There are many different types of dementia. Your loved one's treatments will depend on the type he has.
Experts think between 60% to 80% of people with dementia have this disease. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's what most people think of when they hear "dementia."
If someone you know has Alzheimer's, you'll notice symptoms such as memory loss and trouble planning and doing familiar tasks.
The symptoms are mild at first but get worse over a number of years. Your friend or relative might:
Be confused about where he is or what day or year it is
Have problems speaking or writing
Lose things and be unable to backtrack to find them
Show poor judgment
Have mood and personality changes
If a relative or friend of yours gets this type of dementia, it's usually because he's had a major stroke, or one or more "silent" strokes, which can happen without him realizing it.
The symptoms depend on which part of his brain was affected by the stroke.
While Alzheimer's usually begins with memory problems, vascular dementia more often begins with poor judgment or trouble planning, organizing, and making decisions.
Other symptoms may include:
Memory problems that disrupt your loved one's daily life
Trouble speaking or understanding speech
Problems recognizing sights and sounds that used to be familiar
Being confused or agitated
Changes in personality and mood
Problems walking and having frequent falls
Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)
Lewy bodies are microscopic deposits of a protein that form in some people's brains. They're named after the scientist who discovered them.
If someone you know gets DLB, it's because these deposits have formed in the part of the brain called the cortex.
The symptoms include:
Problems thinking clearly, making decisions, or paying attention
Seeing things that aren't there, known as visual hallucinations
Unusual sleepiness during the day
Periods of "blanking out" or staring
Problems with movement, including trembling, slowness, and trouble walking
Dreams where you act out physically, including, talking, walking, and kicking