Dementia

  • Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities. It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, names of colleagues, or a friend’s phone number only to remember them a short while later. However, someone living with dementia may forget things more often or may have trouble remembering information that was recently learned. Often, they don’t remember their name, how to tell time, how to write their name, or to read anything.
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks. A person living with dementia may have trouble completing a task that has been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal, remembering where the toilet is in the house and remembering how to use it, turning the television on or off, chewing their food, recalling how to swallow their medication, taking a bath, washing their face, or brushing their teeth. These simple daily tasks that we do every day become difficult for someone dealing with dementia.
  • Problems with language. Sometimes we all can have trouble finding the right word to express what we want to say. A person living with dementia may forget simple words or they may use or make up words that others may not understand. Often, it’s challenging for them to make a complete sentence that makes any sense to the listener. When interacting with them, one can see the struggle they are having trying to communicate. I have found that it’s best to agree with them, nod your head, and smile during your interaction with them.
  • Disorientation to time and place. Forgetting the day of the week, the month, or even the year are warning signs. We all tend to forget the day of the week or will go into a certain room but forget why until it comes back to us 15 minutes later. People living with dementia can become lost in their homes or on their own streets, not knowing how they got there or how to get home. Often, I have met people who are driving and can’t remember how to get back home. On those occasions, I have offered to help them or when I was driving, asked them to follow me to their address. They were always grateful, but they really shouldn’t be driving.
  • Impaired judgment. Often people may make questionable decisions such as refusing to attend a medical appointment. Often, people living with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making, such as not recognizing a medical issue that needs attention, walking around the house or going outside naked. For their safety, it would be highly recommended to change the locks on doors so that keys are needed to exit the house or apartment. It also helps to have signs in the house, such as, the word Toilet on the bathroom door — that shows a picture of a toilet. Having a clean and organized home helps a person with dementia. If a home is cluttered with junk, you may consider decluttering or clearing out the space so there are no accidents.
  • Problems with abstract thinking. Many people with dementia have problems understanding what numbers and symbols mean. It’s not unusual that there may be some difficulty using a calculator, a mobile device, a computer, paying bills, turning on the washing machine, dishwasher, or balancing a check book. Many people suffering from dementia were once the primary person in charge of household finances, such as paying bills on time and maintaining accurate records.
  • Misplacing or moving things. We all are guilty of misplacing things that we may have placed in a safe and secure place. We can temporarily lose our car keys, a wallet, or our favorite watch or ring. A person living with dementia may put things in inappropriate places or pick up anything that a housemate may leave on a table or anywhere. For example, car keys in the freezer, a diamond ring in the sugar bowl, or their spouse’s new mobile phone in the laundry chute. One day while with my sister, my glasses disappeared. I searched everywhere without any luck. When I was complaining to someone that I had lost my favorite pair of glasses and my sister kept saying the word ‘trash’ repeatedly while she was watching a game show. Each time she said the word, she became louder and louder. Finally, it caught my attention, and I ran to the trash can in the kitchen. Without much digging, I found my glasses in its case in the garbage. I am still amazed that she understood what I was searching for every day and night. The experience taught me to be always alert and not leave things laying around. Simple things would disappear, such as pens, caps, letters, medicine, remote controls, computer mouses, and of course, mobile phones.
  • Changes in mood and behaviour. You must agree, we can feel sad or moody every day. A person living with dementia can demonstrate major mood swings from calmness to screams of anger, often for no logical reason.
  • Changes in personality. Each of our personalities can change in subtle ways over time. In many cases, a person living with dementia may experience more striking personality changes and can become confused, suspicious, or withdrawn. They may enjoy one of their favorite meals today but refuse to eat it tomorrow. Often this can be difficult for the caregivers. Some people with dementia can become violent or put up a fight if there is something they don’t want to do, such as taking a bath, being shaved, or having their hair combed.
  • Loss of initiative. It’s normal to get bored or tire of doing housework, writing the same management reports that no one reads, or feeling obligated to attend social engagements, but we often regain the initiative or drive to continue. A person living with dementia may become passive and disinterested, requiring a push to get involved again.
  • Loss of Smell.

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Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner

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Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.