Inside Dementia: Not Just One Person’s Memory Problem
Over one in eight seniors will suffer from some form of dementia. There are several types of dementia, and a massive body of research on the causes of dementia, some of which is confusing or later refuted. For example, some people are still concerned that excess aluminum exposure causes dementia, although that is now known to be untrue.
In any case, dementia will probably affect you or someone you know and love. Any given middle-aged adult has about a one in five chance of having to arrange for, or take care of, a loved one with some form of dementia.
It’s scary, and no one wants to think about that being a possibility. We all want to die peacefully, and quickly. Don’t you remember the joke about that?
I want to die quietly in my sleep, like my grandfather; not screaming, like the passengers in his car.
Forgive the dark humor, but ignoring a topic doesn’t make it go away, and humor makes these subjects slightly more palatable.
So, chances are that you might be closely involved with someone with dementia. How on earth do you deal with that?
Caregiving Is Its Own Job
Make no mistake, dementia doesn’t just affect the person with the disease.
The affected person’s entire network becomes involved. Friends may not understand changes in behavior; family members may be frustrated when simple day to day activities suddenly become difficult or impossible to do.
It is becoming ever more important to understand, and offer support for, those in the caregiver role.
Caregivers for dementia patients are often in that role for over five years; the average caregiver works in that role over 20 hours per week. These statistics regarding caregiving can be startling; you can find out more here.
It’s a tough job. But as a society, we’re learning that offering counseling and other forms of support to caregivers definitely reduces the caregiver’s perceived burden. It even delays the patient having to be placed in a nursing home!
The Good News Club
The good news is that there is a lot of help available. Society is evolving to help caregivers better help their patients.
States often provide benefits like stipends, training, and/or relief care for full-time caregivers. More and more studies show that increased caregiver support saves states money; saves Medicare and Medicaid programs money; and leads to better health for the patient. Look up your local Innovage or PACE programs, or your local state’s Aging Services Division (at the bottom of this page) to explore these resources.
Senior rec centers are becoming more prevalent. These are local programs that provide day activities for seniors, which improve functioning and are safe and fun. They are often associated with nursing homes or assisted living programs, and are usually open to the public. Check for these programs with local nursing homes or assisted living communities near you.
Everyone deserves to live a long, healthy, happy life, and this includes the caregivers among us.