Dementia and Aging: The Effects On Personal Relationships

Dementia refers to the medical condition in which the patient suffers from progressive reduction in cognitive functions. In other words, the patient suffers from loss of ability to think. There are more than seventy different types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is a common type of dementia. Lewy Body Disease, Parkinson's disease, Picks Disease or Fronto-Temporal dementia, and Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease are some other types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is an example of dementia in which the person loses memory and finds it difficult to perform everyday basic tasks such as wearing clothes and eating.

Symptoms

  • The patient suffering from dementia suffers from forgetfulness and his or her physical dexterity reduces with time.
  • The patient forgets names, places, and suffers from moodiness. In time, the person develops communicative disabilities and finds it difficult to read and write.
  • As the disease progresses, the person may not be in a condition to take care of himself or herself.

Causes

Some of the causes for the condition include infections, head injuries, drug abuse, nutritional deficiency, hormonal disorders, stroke, toxic substance exposure, metabolic disorders, and damage to brain cells.

Risk Factors

  • Age – The risk of dementia increases with age
  • Family history – It is believed that dementia is caused by a specific gene type but there are many cases of dementia without any family history
  • Cholesterol – High cholesterol level and high LDL raises the risk
  • Diabetes – Diabetes increases the risk of stroke and vascular dementia
  • High Homocysteine – A high level of homocysteine in blood raises the risk
  • Smoking and alcohol - Taking excess alcohol and smoking can raise the risk

Complications of Dementia

  • Loss of ability to interact.
  • Side effects of medicines.
  • Loss of appetite which may lead to loss of weight.
  • The patient forgets to take liquids and may suffer from dehydration.
  • The person does not remember to clothes and may forget to wash hands or brush. teeth. In this sense, the patient suffers from decreased hygiene level.
  • The person becomes aggressive as the complications increase and suffers from emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

Treatment

To diagnose the conditions, tests such as AMTS, MMSE, and CASI are conducted. In most cases, the condition is incurable. For treatment, cholinesterase inhibitors are given to stop the breakdown of neurotransmitters to improve brain power. Although there are several drugs which are administered, there is no cure for the underlying cause of the condition. Simultaneous treatment is also provided for depression. The condition requires a lot of care and understanding from family members. Dementia patients should be encouraged to continue their normal leisure activities such as playing games, exercising, and participating in crafts to stay active.

Impact on Personal Relationships

The behavior of a person suffering from dementia gradually changes and the person may get more suspicious, delusional, and show aggressive behavior. The caregiver may believe the person has completely changed as communication difficulties lead to further complications. In extreme conditions, the patient forgets about his or her roles as spouse, parent, and so on. Furthermore, the patient may either lose interest in sex or become excessively demanding. This may cause the partner to feel rejected or guilty at times. 

The Caregivers

In a survey, it has been found that the caregiver of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease dedicates an insufficient amount of time for the patients, hence making the patients feel abandoned. It’s also found in the survey that the caregivers searched for more tips on care giving from their friends and families. Many of the caregivers felt they have personally evolved through the process of providing care to the patient with the disease.

The lack of information about the disease has been a major barrier for caregivers and they confide mostly to their physicians, friends, children, and spouse. The caregiver of an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, be it the spouse, children, siblings, parents or friends, have to provide round-the-clock nursing to the patient. There are many government sponsored and private support groups which provide facilities to assist the caregivers. The groups help the caregiver to share experiences and provide ideas to cope with the ordeal of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Follow these links to learn more about dementia.

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