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Dementia and its impact on daily life

Dementia is a loss of cognitive functioning. This loss of cognitive functioning tends to interfere with the daily life activities of an individual.

Dementia statistics (Brayne, Stephan, & Matthews, 2011) show the most affected functions in dementia:

  • Thinking

  • Reasoning

  • Remembering

  • Behavioural activities

  • Visual perception

  • Language skills

  • Self-management

  • Problem-solving

  • Ability of focusing

  • Attention

  • Other personality changes

Dementia can range in severity from mild symptoms to severe intensity.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), dementia is not the normal ageing process (Lobo, Saz, Marcos, Día, & De-la-Cámara, 1995). Dementia is a progressive disease. Dementia occurs due to illness of the brain, which affects its cognitive functions.

Dementia has several types:

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Vascular dementia

  • Dementia with Lewy body formation

  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

  • Delirium

  • Mixed dementia

 

Sign and symptoms of dementia:

Dementia symptoms (Grossman, Bergmann, & Parker, 2006) include:

  • Confusion

  • Forgetfulness or absent-mindedness

  • Agitation

  • Repetition of questions or statements

  • Wandering

  • Misplacing items

  • Paranoia

  • Delusions

  • Verbal or physical aggression

  • Resistance

  • Behavioural changes

Effects of dementia:

Dementia impacts the activities of daily life (ADLs), which make it difficult for individuals to complete simple daily life activities and can impact their quality of life. The simple activities can include bathing, feeding, cleaning, or doing laundry. It is essential to note that every individual does not have the same symptoms. Dementia has different stages, which can affect the functioning of an individual.

Dementia is a progressive neurological disease that affects the normal executive functioning of the body.

Dementia makes it challenging (Beerens et al., 2014) for individuals to execute simple tasks such as feeding, bathing, or even getting dressed. Our daily life activities have a series of movements that are difficult or patients to execute normally.

Dementia affects the ability of the brain to plan, sequence, and then organise the activities with multiple steps. Patients who want to continue their life (normal) even after the diagnosis of dementia, we can offer some key measures. Assisted living care is a beneficial way to help the patients maintain their independence in their own homes with comfort. Dementia support groups can also help patients. Dementia organisations, and support networks such as The Memory Choir, are playing an essential role in patients.

Effects on memory:

One of the most prominent symptoms of dementia is memory loss (Ebert & Kirch, 1998). Dementia tends to affect both types of memories; short term memory and long-term memory. Sometimes, patients even forget to perform a simple task like how to brush their teeth or how to clean their clothes properly. Daily support to these patients can help them to lead a full and more independent life.

Attention and judgement:

Dementia causes a lack of signalling from the brain to the body. This lack of signalling leads to problems with attention, judgement, and decisions making. In simple terms, patients will have difficulty in heating the room in cool winter days. Because of it, they will not be able to judge the weather and take action according to the need. This lack of attention and judgement can be dangerous for the patient and their surroundings as well.

We can describe it; for instance, a patient can forget to turn the flame or oven off for a longer time, which can put the whole house on the risk of catching fire. The attention span of dementia patients is less. They can not give attention to anything for a long time. Patients with dementia might also feel pain while doing a simple task as bathing.

Behavioural changes:

Dementia progression can directly affect the psychological state of a person (Robert et al., 2005). Dementia and depression can correlate directly. Family members of the patients can feel the visible change in the behaviour of the patients. In the later stages, these symptoms become clear as they can start interfering in daily life activities to a greater extent.

Visual-spatial changes:

Visual-spatial thinking is the person’s ability to perceive the information through a vision from the environment to integrate it with other experiences and senses.

For example, if a person sees a cup on the table, it is his visual-spatial thinking that he sees a cup, and he knows it is over the table. But in dementia patients, they can not formulate and process this information together. They can not decide whether the cup is over the table or table is over the cup. It is a dangerous situation that can cause many life-threatening accidents. That is why the patients need to have assistance in their daily life activities. Several options for assistance are available either through the family members or through other services.

Advice to the caretakers or the family:

If you have anyone who has dementia, then you must:

  • Stay calm

  • Dementia support and dementia resources– give one direction to the patient at one time

  • Model your behaviour according to your patient

  • Let the unimportant things go and focus on what is important.’

  • Let the additional stress go

  • Give time, offer support and be patient

  • Ask for help from other relatives or any home health care service

  • Do not overburden yourself, take a break from the pressure

  • Don’t mind the behaviour of patient as it is a serious neurological complication which patient cant help with

  • Take some time for yourself

References:

Beerens, H. C., Sutcliffe, C., Renom-Guiteras, A., Soto, M. E., Suhonen, R., Zabalegui, A., . . . Consortium, R. (2014). Quality of life and quality of care for people with dementia receiving long term institutional care or professional home care: the European RightTimePlaceCare study. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 15(1), 54-61.

Brayne, C., Stephan, B. C., & Matthews, F. E. (2011). A European perspective on population studies of dementia. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 7(1), 3-9.

Ebert, U., & Kirch, W. (1998). Scopolamine model of dementia: electroencephalogram findings and cognitive performance. European journal of clinical investigation, 28(11), 944-949.

Grossman, H., Bergmann, C., & Parker, S. (2006). Dementia: a brief review. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, New York, 73(7), 985-992.

Lobo, A., Saz, P., Marcos, G., Día, J.-L., & De-la-Cámara, C. (1995). The prevalence of dementia and depression in the elderly community in a Southern European population: the Zaragoza study. Archives of general psychiatry, 52(6), 497-506.

Robert, P. H., Verhey, F. R., Byrne, E. J., Hurt, C., De Deyn, P. P., Nobili, F., . . . Tsolaki, M. (2005). Grouping for behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia: clinical and biological aspects. Consensus paper of the European Alzheimer disease consortium. European Psychiatry, 20(7), 490-496.

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