Uncovering and Understanding Dementia-Related Behaviors

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Residences Senior Living hosted our first ever Live Webinar in place of our monthly educational event. Using the latest technology and user-friendly platform, we were able to broadcast our planned seminar online in order to do our part to help maintain social distancing.

Elderly couple using their computer.

Program Director of the Institute for Excellence in Memory Care Patty Piechocki, CTRS, QMCP, CDCP, CMDCP, of the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Services of Northern Indiana, is an expert in her field. Presentation highlights included how to identify a dementia-related behavior, best practices on how to respond, current approaches and interventions, and an interactive question and answer session.

Patty started by outlining normal aging. Aging itself is not a disease – changes are variable, gradual, and all of our organs change. How we age depends on our genes, environment, and lifestyle. In our younger years, our brain retains more information, processes faster, is sharper and quicker, has a faster reaction time, and better short-term memory. Later in life, memory does slow down. Even in a healthy, aging adult, the brain works at a slower pace, the speed to recall is slowed, the attention span is lessened, we have problems focusing, and we are not as flexible.

Early warning signs that indicate something beyond normal aging include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts normal life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time and place
  • Trouble understanding visual and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words when speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

Patty went on to share that when memory loss changes your day, it may be time to seek an evaluation. An evaluation includes a review of medical, social, and psychiatric history; a review of medication, including a history of abuse or misuse; laboratory tests and screening including blood, urine, electrolyte and metabolic panel, vitamin B12 a foliate levels; an evaluation of the person’s ability to perform common daily tasks, a “mini-mental status exam”, observing symptom progression over time, and other neuropsychological testing.

Dementia is not the name of a disease, but a term used to refer to a group of symptoms:

  • Functional loss
  • Disorientation
  • Impulsivity
  • Shortened attention span
  • Loss of concentration
  • Poor judgment and reasoning

There are two types of dementia:

Reversible Dementia

Reversible dementia, or “delirium” can be caused by infections, medications, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiency, dehydration/malnutrition, blood sugars, depression, untreated alcohol or drug abuse, tumors, acute medical condition, hormonal disorders, sleep deficiencies, or stress.

Non-reversible Dementia

Non-reversible dementia is progressive and permanent; typically caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, MID/Vascular Disease, Combination or Mixed Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, or Frontotemporal Disorders.

Of all dementias, 56% is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, 14% is Vascular, and 12% is mixed or combination dementia (this accounts for 82%).

Dementia diseases are not a normal part of aging. While not all older people get dementia, it is most common after age 65. However, people in the 30s, 40, 50s and younger can have dementia.

Typically, when someone has dementia, they lose the ability to learn new things, use abstract/complex thought processes, reason, understand language, understand time, appreciate possessions, do tasks, remember “who’s who”, safety awareness, and self-fulfill basic needs such as eating, sleeping, and toileting.

Alzheimer’s

What remains after Alzheimer’s, is the ability to reside in the moment with a sense of timelessness and a never-ending sense of newness, along with a heightened sensory awareness of sights, sounds, patterns and movements, emotions, and intuition. Emotional memory of meaningful moments including long-ago memory and bits and pieces of our lives might remain.

The ability to read body language (even subtle changes), and the appreciation of music and rhythm still remain. The ability to love, and our desire to communicate on a simpler, deeper, and more authentic level may remain, along with flashes of awareness/lucidity.

There are actions you can take to help support cognitive health and adapt to age-related changes. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, physical exercise, proper sleep, brain exercises, and good nutrition contribute to brain health.

Grandma walking with grandson on a family outing.

On a positive note, aging typically has positive effects on our lives! Most of the time as we age healthfully, we find that we are wiser, more confident, motivated, provide a positive legacy to our families, live in the moment, and even volunteer to help serve others.

Looking for assistance?

Residences Senior Living has two licensed senior living communities, Residences at Deer Creek in Schererville, Indiana and Residences at Coffee Creek in Chesterton, Indiana offering Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care. As licensed assisted living communities we offer the highest level and quality of care in Northwest Indiana. For more information about our award-winning communities visit www.ResidencesSeniorLiving.com

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