LIVING WITH DEMENTIA
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.
1. Memory Loss and Distortion
People with dementia tend to have problems with short-term memory. They may remember things from long ago but forget what happened this morning. Memory distortions also occur. People with dementia may confuse people in their memories, or combine two or more memories. Sometimes, they think an old memory is a new one. Memory issues are an early sign of dementia.
2. Loss of Vocabulary
As people develop dementia, their communicative ability may deteriorate. They develop problems with vocabulary and must repeatedly hunt for words during a conversation. Over time, some people find communicating difficult enough that they participate less in conversations.
3. Changes in Mood and Disposition
Dementia tends to alter an individual’s mood. Someone with dementia may be jovial and cheery one second and deeply morose the next. Some also develop depression. This unpredictability of mood is usually accompanied by a change in general disposition and personality traits. For instance, a shy individual may suddenly seem very uninhibited. This occurs because the individual is losing neurons in certain parts of the brain. Changes depend on which area of the brain is affected.
4. Faulty Reasoning
When dementia advances, people may say and do things that seem irrational or based on faulty logic. For instance, they might bathe with extremely cold water when they are feeling mildly warm and catch a cold. They might stash away things in strange nooks and corners, and give strange explanations when asked about their behavior.
Dementia causes disorientation of time, place and circumstance in most patients. They tend to be confused about what day or year it is, are unaware of the passage of day and night, and can lose track of what they’re doing. Or example, affected individuals may forget what they ate for breakfast that day or become confused in familiar surroundings. This aspect of dementia only worsens over time.
6. Trouble with Comprehension
Individuals with dementia lose their comprehension ability rapidly. They may not understand what is happening and ask the same questions over and over. Some have difficulty telling time, following instructions, reading, and writing. In the initial stages, a low degree of incomprehension can be misattributed to inattentiveness.
7. Balance Problems
Having dementia also affects physical movement. As motor control gradually decreases, individuals may begin walking with a stoop or leaning to one side. They may be more prone to accidents such as stumbling and falling due to balance issues and disorientation.
8. Lack of Self-Care Tendencies
Individuals with dementia often stop practicing rigorous self-care and hygiene as the disease progresses. They may not want to bathe or wear clean clothes and might disregard cluttered or dirty living environments.
9. Change in Appetite and Eating Habits
Over time, people with dementia can lose interest in eating. They may adopt unhealthy habits such as skipping meals or spitting out food. A caregiver can make sure people with dementia continue to eat properly, to avoid malnutrition.
10. Loss of Social Skills
Impaired judgment causes loss of social skills in people with dementia. They may behave and speak inappropriately in the company of others, often offending or even frightening other people.
It is said “Dementia is like taking apart a puzzle, one piece at time”.