Jul 9, 2012

Thinking About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Dementia is the gradual deterioration of mental functioning, such as thinking, concentration, memory, and judgment, which affects a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Thinking About Alzheimer's and Dementia
There are more than a hundred causes of dementia. The big four include: Alzheimer's, Lewy Body dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the gradual deterioration of mental functioning, such as thinking, concentration, memory, and judgment, which affects a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

When most people think about dementia they tend to focus on memory. The patient can't remember, can no longer remember, and forgets how to do things we take for granted.

However, I don't think many people focus in on thinking, concentration, and judgement.

Memory loss can be very subtle at first. A person forgets how to work with a checkbook, but can still drive to and from the store.

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Under the article, What Was the First Sign of Alzheimer's Disease in Your Case?, there are 196 comments. Reading these comments are very instructive and show why it is sometimes hard to detect dementia. Hard until something out of the ordinary starts happening.

In order to deal with the burdensome problems that come with dementia it is often useful to ask yourself -- why is the person living with dementia doing this?


It can also be helpful to ask a doctor or people in support groups, why?

In the case of Sheila, why is her husband "needing" to drink milk all the time? Is their something in his body that tells him he needs milk? Some kind of deficiency? Or, does he find drinking milk to be comforting? Why?

In order to change a dynamic it can be helpful to understand why. Or, how?

Sometimes the most effective caregiver solutions come after examining why something is happening. In other words, looking at the problem from the point of view, or from the perspective of the person who is becoming deeply forgetful.

Most caregivers that are new to Alzheimer's caregiving tend to vent endlessly about the same problem. They will tell anyone that will listen about the wild and crazy behavior that is driving THEM crazy.

Unless you vent to the right person, a person that can actually give you a potential solution to the problem, all you are really accomplishing is complaining about a problem, not seeking a solution to the problem.

I fully understand the need to vent. I did it myself until I finally realized that people were getting "sick" of hearing me complain, and nothing was changing.

Eventually I realized something had to change, and as should be obvious, it wasn't, that something was me.

In order to introduce change into our daily living, I first had to start looking at Alzheimer's behaviors from Dotty's perspective. Not from my perspective, from her perspective.

So I started asking myself: Why?, How?, What? When?, Where?

Asking "what" really helped me. As in, what was going on immediately before the crazy behavior occurred? Was there a trigger?

I started writing all this down in a notebook.

Some were simple. If I went out to the store for a while, and then came back, Dotty would normally become hard to handle and mean.

After a while it started to dawn on me. Dotty had no real concept of time.

So Dotty might have been thinking I was gone for a very long period of time, rather than 30 minutes.
  • Did Dotty think I was abandoning her while I was gone? 
  • Was she afraid of being alone? 
  • Did she think I was out making arrangements to have her put away, put in a "home". 
  • Did she try and do something, couldn't figure it out, and became all bent out of shape?
Once I started looking at the world from Dotty's viewpoint and asking myself questions, and writing down my observations,  I started to better understand the changes in her mood, thinking and behavior.

By understanding the dynamic of each situation I was able to make subtle changes in our routine, in our environment (home), and most importantly, I was able to make the necessary changes in me.

This might sound like it is very hard to do. It is not.

You need a good notebook, some patience, and the ability to ask yourself why?

Sooner or later the light bulb will go on in your head. And, just like anything else you try to do, the more you practice the better you will get.

You can keep on venting and complaining, or you can change the dynamic.

You decide.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,711 articles with more than 302,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room