We just left the doctor and my father was diagnosed with Dementia. What is Dementia and what can I expect to see happen to my Dad as he progresses through this disease?
Scared and Sad for the Father I am Watching Fail
Dear Scared and Sad,
Dementia is a terrible disease that affects everyone in the family. By definition, Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning. There are several types of Dementia’s, but all present in a similar fashion. You can read more about do's and don'ts with the disease here.
There are 7 phases of Dementia and each person diagnosed progresses through each stage at their own pace. Once a stage begins, each individual remains in that stage for an undetermined amount of time. Some stages last longer than others and some are more intense than the one before. It is important to note that no two people progress through any of the stages in the same way. Below are the specific stages of Dementia and what to expect.
Stage 1: Appears normal and can cover up lapses Stage 2: Forgets certain things but can otherwise function normally Stage 3: Difficulties at work. Becomes anxious. Family becomes aware. Stage 4: Reduced ability to count. Finds travel difficult. Can no longer manage own affairs.
Stage 5: Needs help getting dressed Stage 6: Needs help eating. Needs help using the toilet. May be incontinent. Disoriented to time and place. Possibly forgets who they are. Stage 7: Severe speech loss. Motor stiffness. Incontinence. Needs feeding. Total disorientation.
When caring for a loved one, no matter the specific stage, it is important to remember that what is working during one stage, may not work for the next. Flexibility is key. There are several articles written on the topic of Dementia that include ideas to help care for the day to day functioning of a loved one with Dementia. Be patient with your loved one and yourself.
Common risk factors to Dementia include some things that cannot be changed and others that can be influenced. Age and family history are non-modifiable risk factors. However, conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and heavy alcohol use increase the risk of developing some type of dementia and can be controlled.
As with most conditions exercise, a high fiber diet and stopping smoking go a long way in the prevention of various types of dementia.
Janice Guckin Barry, RN, Dear Nurse