rear view of a son helping his father walk with crutchesAlzheimer's Disease International estimates that about 46 million people are living with dementia. Worldwide, dementia costs about $818 billion annually. For comparison, the annual revenue of Apple is about $742 billion. Dementia is a huge industry that carries social stigma. Individuals who are dealing with dementia often don't admit that they are having problems. This delays the diagnosis. Family members might ignore the symptoms because they don't want to admit their loved ones are aging. There are a wealth of problems that come with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. ADI celebrates World Alzheimer's Month each September to encourage dialogue and education about this debilitating condition that affects individuals and their loved ones.

What Is Dementia?

Although most people think of Alzheimer's disease and dementia as being the same thing, dementia actually is a term for many brain disorders that affect behavior, emotion, thinking and memory. Alzheimer's disease accounts for about 60 percent of the cases of dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common, and it occurs after a stroke. Mental decline is thought to be a normal sign of aging, but many symptoms of memory loss can be reversed.

Symptoms of dementia include:

Memory loss significant enough to affect daily activities Problems with words in speaking or writing Poor judgment Problems completing normal tasks Confused about time or place Inability to manage a budget

The symptoms of dementia often start out gradually and get worse. The earlier you can get your loved one to the doctor to determine the cause, the more effective the treatment. Early diagnosis is also beneficial because if the condition gets worse, you have more time to plan for the future. Dementia isn't a specific disease in itself but a wide range of symptoms that indicate another problem. Many people ignore the symptoms until it's too late to find an effective treatment.

Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents

Once a specific diagnosis has been given, your parent may require more care than before. This task generally falls on the children and grandchildren, and it can be very complex and stressful. Any illness is hard on the family, but the loss of mental function only increases the difficulty. Here are some tips for taking care of your parent with dementia:

  1. Appreciate the good moments. Talk about family and friends by looking at familiar pictures.
  2. Accept instead of correct. When comedians are performing improv, they always agree and say yes. Use this technique with dementia patients to reduce stress.
  3. Remember that your parent isn't trying to be difficult. Dementia often affects the reasoning process in someone's mind.
  4. Validate feelings. Don't try to reason with your parent. Tell him or her that you understand and you want to help.
  5. Accept that things have changed between you and your parents. Grieve the loss of your relationship.
  6. Let go of your emotional dysfunction. When your mom calls you by your sister's name, don't get offended and think that she must love your sister more than you.
  7. Talk to your healthcare team about problems. There are a lot of resources available to you when you're dealing with elderly parents. You're not alone. Get the help you need.
  8. Appreciate the people who help you take care of your parents.
  9. Take time for yourself and your own family.

It's not easy to open a dialogue about dementia with your family. It's hard to think about aging parents who are sick. But the number of cases of dementia around the world is expected to almost triple by 2050. There might not be a cure for dementia, but there is help. Instead of stigmatizing the problem, we have to talk about it and find the resources that allow our loved ones to have better outcomes.

Category: Health and Wellness

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