Early Stages of Dementia and How to Handle It
“Please remember the real me when I cannot remember you” – Anonymous
Did you know that Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia kills more people annually than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined? Between the years of 2000 and 2018, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 146%. Over 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia, which is why it is so important to know the early signs of a loved one’s cognitive decline and how to help them.
Sometimes, there is a stage between normal cognitive decline from aging and the decline of dementia. This stage is called “mild cognitive impairment’ (MCI). Signs of MCI involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment; however, these are much greater than you would see in the typical aging process. At this stage, most individuals with MCI are vaguely aware that their memory is declining. Family, friends, or caregivers may notice a change, too.
There are different types of dementia, which means it can affect people differently and symptoms may vary for everyone. Similarly to MCI, individuals with early stages of Dementia have the following symptoms:
Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks
Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
Being confused about time and place
For Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms differ slightly. Symptoms include:
Memory problems, regularly forgetting recent events, names, and faces
Asking questions repetitively
Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organization and planning
Becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
Difficulty finding the right words
Becoming withdrawn or anxious
Watching your loved one slowly decline is very difficult, but there are treatments persons living with Dementia can take advantage of. Be sure to contact your doctor for more information on how to best treat your loved one.
One of the greatest challenges facing those who care for a person with such cognitive decline is knowing how much assistance to give and when to offer it. The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful article on the best ways to determine how to provide the best support and care for a loved one with Dementia. Keep in mind the following:
Is there an immediate safety risk to perform their task alone?
Avoid stress by prioritizing tasks that do not cause unnecessary stress for the person with dementia.
Be positive when the individual with dementia is completing tasks.
Create a phrase to use when confirming if the person with dementia needs help, such as: “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
As humans, we all cherish our independence and work to retain it. Individuals with Dementia who are used to being independent struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically as the stages progress. It is imperative that persons with Dementia are able to retain as much independence as possible throughout the stages. The Alzheimer’s Association online gives some ways to ensure continued independence and a well-lived life to your loved one:
Encourage Physical Activities
Prepare meals that maintain a balanced diet, and include them in the preparation if possible
Create a daily routine that includes engagement with others and quality sleep
Identify situations which may be too stressful
Luckily, 82% of primary care physicians say that they are on the front lines of providing dementia care according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.
Just as important as taking care of your loved one who has Dementia, caregivers must take care of themselves as well. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s online, the best ways that you can ensure this is by: (1) building a support network to minimize your stress; (2) connect with care partners who understand your situation; (3) ask for and accept help when needed; (4) rest when needed; (5) try not to take things personally; (6) stay healthy and engaged; (7) allow yourself to laugh.
Christ the King Manor is proud to be a partner of the Alzheimer’s Association. Currently, we are raising funds for our “Christ the King Manor Memory Warriors” team to help fight this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association helps educate and support individuals and their family members who are experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. This organization actively supports research to help find a cure. If you are interested in helping us fight Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, feel free to donate or share our link on social media: https://act.alz.org/site/TR?fr_id=13802&pg=team&team_id=608506
For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, or the Alzheimer’s Association, please head to www.alz.org.
Christ the King Manor has an exceptional Memory Support Unit on campus. Our Memory Support Unit is filled with loving, dedicated and compassionate caregivers and nurses. The residents of this unit have many activities that are available to them each day. Tammy, our Memory Support Unit Activities Aide, said, “Our residents love listening to music, relaxing on our fenced-in patio, and snack time.” If you have a loved one who may need any type of memory support, give us a call at (814) 371-3180 or check out more information on our website: www.ctkmanor.org/memory-support-unit.
Author: Dominique Martino; Emmy Neville
Title: Director of Marketing and Communications; Administrative Clerk
Alzheimer's Association Staff. (2020). Alzheimer's and Dementia Facts and Figures. In Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
Alzheimer's Association Staff. (2020). Early-Stage Caregiving. In Alzheimer's Association. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/early-stage
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, August 23). Mild Cognitive Impairment. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from NH. (2020, June 12). Symptoms of Dementia. In NHS. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/symptoms/
NH. (2020, June 12). Symptoms of Dementia. In NHS. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/symptoms/