By Diana Smith Contributing Author, fitness and alternative medicine expert
Dementia is something that a lot of people suffer from, and there really isn’t enough discussion around it. The first problem being – people don’t know what dementia is. But beyond that, there are plenty of misconceptions about dementia, and people rarely know how to approach and care for people who suffer from it. So, to make life easier for everyone, let’s clear up some facts about dementia and talk about how you can minimize the chances of ever getting into that condition.
What is dementia?
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that dementia is a disease. Actually, it’s an umbrella term for symptoms and illnesses, most commonly Alzheimer’s. Dementia stems from the dysfunction of the cerebral cortex, either directly or indirectly. It is manifested as decline in memory, language usage, judgment and general behavior. It might seem to you like dementia is a normal part of growing old – but it’s actually not. Dementia happens to a lot of people, but not to everyone, and while there is no way to prevent getting dementia, keeping your brain active and engaged by constantly learning new things can go a long way in preventing its symptoms.
What are the early signs?
Usually the first signs of dementia are memory decline and memory loss, specifically short-term memory. However, as people with dementia often don’t realize themselves that they have it, they (subconsciously or otherwise) try to conceal it. This is why it’s important to look for the indirect signs, instead of waiting for a person to forget where they put their keys. Things like stopping mid-sentence or having trouble communicating, getting lost, forgetting to complete basic daily tasks or losing the train of thought are all things to look for. Of course, it’s important to remember that seeing some of these signs isn’t proof that someone has dementia and it should always be confirmed by a specialist.
How to care for a person with dementia?
Dementia is as hard on the people suffering from it as it is on the people around them. When you find yourself caring for a person with dementia, the most important thing you have to consider is whether you have the capacity and the time to care for them. If not, there are state of the art dementia care centers where your loved one can get professional care and live in a safe environment, surrounded by peers, and where you can visit them whenever you can. However, whenever they are in your care, you have to remember that the key is to stay patient. You have to have understanding and compassion for their mood swings, forgetfulness, inability to take care of themselves and anything else you might consider an inconvenience.
Can you prevent dementia?
There are still no scientific ways to cure dementia or to prevent it, but there is strong evidence pointing to a healthy lifestyle decreasing the risk of developing dementia in old age. And while living a generally healthy life helps, perhaps the most important goal should be to remain mentally healthy. Something like untreated depression and perpetuated loneliness can heighten the risk of developing dementia. Of course, genes and old age play the biggest role, but eating healthy, staying active, staying away from alcohol and cigarettes and, of course, being mentally in a good place will go a long way in helping you live a healthy life as you grow older.
Dealing with dementia is hard, and the best thing you can do is to do as much research as you can and learn about it so that you can be prepared to take care of it if it falls on you or one of your loved ones. Remember that people with dementia can still live a long and productive life if they are provided with the right care.
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