The Normal Aging Process vs. Dementia
As an individual gets older, some aspects of their life may change and this is normal with aging. These changes are a standard part of the aging process and can happen to the elderly regardless of their medical history. When a person ages, the body tends to slow down and mental health can decrease.
Typically, over 35% of individuals aged 60 and above experience memory loss in some aspect of their lives. Without a medical condition being diagnosed, this is known as “memory impairment” or (MCI) “mild cognitive impairment” and is associated with age. With MCI, an elderly individual can struggle with central brain functions and while this can sometimes be noticeable to others, it does not always change the individual’s daily life or routine.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are different. This is because these diseases affect areas of the brain and an individual’s mental health. It is important to note that dementia is not a disease. It is however a set of signs that can be caused by a multitude of brain ailments. These symptoms can eventually interfere in an individual’s life and lead to a diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
There are however other diseases that can lead to dementia such as cerebrovascular disease/ vascular dementia, mixed dementia, Lewy body disease/ dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTD). These vary between individuals are and typically depend on the individual’s mental and physical health.
There are however a number of ways to tell the difference between “memory impairment” and a brain disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Knowing these differences may help your loved ones in a time of need, especially when it comes to spotting symptoms of Alzheimer’s and/ or dementia.
Some of the symptoms with “memory impairment” include; not being able to remember an event or a conversation that happened more than a year ago, not being to remember an individual’s name that has been met once or twice before, occasionally forgetting events or objects, having difficulty finding the right word, or being worried about memory impairment even if the individual’s family members are not. Additionally, the language of an individual can be affected leading them to have difficulty reading, writing, or speaking fluently.
On the other hand, symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia include; not being able to recall short term details, not recognizing or remembering the names of family members or friends, forgetting events or objects quickly, pausing or substituting when being unable to form a sentence, and having family members become worried about an individual’s memory loss even if the individual does not seem aware they have a problem.
You can help elderly people cope with aging and memory loss.
These include keeping a routine, staying organized, repeating information, running through the alphabet in your head, word/ name/ place association, using the senses, sharing stores, and getting a full night sleep.
It is suggested that individuals keep a notebook or a smartphone to write down important information, use sticky notes, labels, and set reminders either with an alarm or by asking a friend or family member. Additionally, elderly individuals are encouraged to socialize often with family and friends as this can aid in memory function. To aide elderly individuals with name recognition, family members are encouraged to show familiar photographs with labels on them showing the names of those pictured.
Taking advantage of one’s day when elderly individuals feel best can help with maintaining a normal routine. Elderly individuals are encouraged to focus on hobbies or activities that bring them satisfaction and do them as safety as possible, allowing time to complete activities, taking a break when things become tiring, and asking for help when in need.
When making trips out don’t be afraid to speak up and ask someone to go with you. Ask for directions along the way or help if you need it. Additionally, speak with your doctor about driving and recognize that it may become unsafe to drive after a certain point in time. Public transportation and taxis are also available in many major cities. Furthermore, ensure that you are receiving help both in the home and when it comes to managing money. There are many agencies that will help with senior home care to ensure you are safe and able to receive help within your home.
Finally, communication is key. Having active communication skills can assist elderly individuals in every aspect of this new transition. Take your time and do not feel as though you need to rush when trying to communicate a problem. Feel free to ask individuals to speak up, repeat what they are saying, or to speak slower. It is especially important to always find a quiet place to talk.
While these tips and tricks will not stop Alzheimer’s or dementia from occurring in elderly individuals, they can help to slow the process down and ease any burden. There are many useful resources online that can be useful when learning more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We encourage you to look at these in order to educate both your family members and yourself for the future.
Alvita Care Helps Seniors with Memory Issues
Our caregivers are trained and capable of providing an array of in-home services to seniors facing memory loss issues. We have home health aides in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey. Our mission is to help elders and their families cope with the effects of aging while maintaining a better quality of life.