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Living with Dementia

Posted on: Feb. 25, 2020
Getting older isn’t easy. Many people have concerns about not being able to care for themselves or loved ones, especially as they lose their cognitive abilities. They may begin having difficulty getting though everyday life:

“Why can’t I find the grocery store? I have driven there hundreds of times! What is wrong with me?”

“This tv show makes no sense! I don’t understand what the characters are talking about.”

“Who is this person that is talking to me? I have no idea who she is, but she is acting like we know each other. I’ll just keep smiling and maybe she won’t notice.”

Children may worry about their parents’ well-being and how to keep them safe:

“I can’t trust my mom in the kitchen anymore. She keeps turning on the stove and forgetting to turn it off. I’ve had to take off all of the knobs and hide them so she doesn’t start a fire.”

"My mom is yelling that someone stole all the money she was storing in the freezer. She is convinced her sister stole it from her, but her sister lives in a different state."

“It is getting so hard to have a conversation with my dad. He keeps talking about the same topics over and over again, and he gets confused so easily. What is going on?”

Dementia can be very overwhelming, but there are numerous supports available at all stages of aging. Knowing what to expect and where to go for help at each stage can have a huge impact on quality of life.

It is often thought that dementia is a natural part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many lifestyle changes which can help to delay the onset of dementia. This includes a healthy diet, exercising your body and mind, and taking care of your other medical needs. Learning about these changes and implementing them can help you to maintain cognitive health. There are cognitive education groups that can assist you in meeting these goals. These lifestyle changes can be made before symptoms are noticed, which can delay the onset of dementia, or after a diagnosis, to try to reduce its impact.

The symptoms of dementia can appear many years before a diagnosis. These symptoms can include memory loss; difficulty solving problems, planning, completing tasks, or making decisions; confusion about time or place; misplacing things; and problems speaking or writing. Cognitive evaluations help to identify problems that need attention and provide a baseline to monitor changes in cognitive abilities as time goes on. A medical doctor can screen for cognitive decline in addition to ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms. However, a full cognitive evaluation by a neuropsychologist can be used to diagnose dementia and allows you to learn all of your current cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used to create a treatment plan along with assisting the individuals and their families in planning for the future. The earlier that cognitive deficits are identified, the sooner they can be addressed, which leads to a more positive prognosis.

Another benefit to early diagnosis is that the individual with dementia can be more actively involved with planning for the future. They will be able to make decisions regarding their future care, finances, and legal matters. Family and friends can take part in the planning so that they can be involved in the plan and know how they can assist in caregiving. It is important to determine where the individual will live, how their needs will be met, and who will be responsible for making major decisions when the individual with dementia is no longer able to do so. This may not be an easy process, but having a plan will make life easier for everyone in the long run.

Education is key for both the individual with dementia and any involved family, friends, and caregivers. Understanding the progression of dementia helps with planning for the future as well as just getting though everyday life. Online resources are available from organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association. There are professionals, such as lawyers and social workers, whose specialize in geriatrics. They can assist through all stages to help ensure that the individual’s wishes are carried out and that the individual is receiving the best care possible. Health care professionals, such as doctors and neuropsychologists, can help to monitor symptoms as the dementia progresses and be a source of information regarding treatment along with what options and resources are available.

Individuals in the early stages of dementia can still have very fulfilling lives for many years. Receiving treatment and making changes to address cognitive weaknesses can help to maintain quality of life. Support from friends and families is essential for this to be successful. They can assist with reminders, paying bills, everyday planning, or even just spending time together. These small steps can help the individual remain independent for a longer period of time.

As an individual’s ability to live independently declines, there are many resources available to help them. If driving is no longer an option, friends, family, or a transportation service can be utilized to get the individuals where they need to go. There are companies that will provide care including meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping, medication reminders, or even companionship. As the dementia progresses, it may be necessary to find in-home care or adult daycare to ensure the individual’s safety.

Caretakers of individuals with dementia also need a great deal of support. It can be difficult to know what is the best course of action, and it is a physically and emotionally draining experience. They may be coping with stress, depression, grief, and loss. There are support groups for dementia caregivers (as well as for individuals with dementia and their families) available both in person and online. It is important for caregivers to take the time to care for themselves and meet their own needs. There are many resources aimed at helping families and caregivers through support, training, planning, and even helping children to cope with understanding dementia.

Dealing with dementia can be difficult for all involved, but you don’t have to go through it alone. We are here to help!

MINDFUL ASSESSMENTS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES, LLC.

Is proud to announce the opening of a new geriatric care center in
January 2020

REEACH: Respectful Evaluations and Education for Adult Cognitive Health

The mission of REEACH is to provide seniors with the tools and resources needed to continue to remain as independent as possible throughout their lifespan.
This includes respectful and mindful evaluations of their current cognitive abilities, education about how to maintain cognitive health while aging, and community resources to maximize independence while maintaining safety.

Some of the services provided include:

    • Cognitive screenings to identify changes that might require more in-depth evaluations or medical follow-up
    • In-depth cognitive evaluations to provide feedback on current abilities and to aid with planning for the future
    • Educational groups about the effects of aging on the brain and how to maintain cognitive health over time
    • Cognitive strengthening groups to aid in the retention of cognitive functioning over time
    • Referrals to community resources for help with in-home care, transportation and services
    • Resources for caretakers of individuals with dementia

*** Medicare is accepted for evaluation services; education and resources are not covered by medical insurance.

For more information, call 973-832-7777 or email admin@mindfulassessment.com

Pompton Valley Professional Center – Suite 202 – 7 Industrial Road – Pequannock, NJ 07440
www.mindfulassessments.com

Resources

REEACH Announcement
Planning for the Future
Downloadable Resources
Alzheimer's Association
Dementia Evaluations
Seniors in Place
Caregiver Support
Support Groups
Additional Resources

References

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013
https://mindfulassessment.com/memory-dementia-evaluations-nj.html
https://www.alzwisc.org/learn-more/alzheimers-and-dementia-basics/early-diagnosis/
https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/know-what-to-expect/if_you_live_alone