Archive for alzheimer’s disease

When a Family Member Suffers Dementia

Posted in Medicine, Nursing, Own Story with tags , , on February 5, 2010 by annepotz

“The oldest trees often bear the sweetest fruit.” –German proverb

I grew up with my grandmother. She took care of me since I was 11-month old. She was the one who guided and molded me into what I am now. I can say she’s like my mother. People will have to come to a point when they age. My grandmother is 72 years old now and she has been behaving so strangely for more than a year now.

My mama and I will always argue about my lola’s condition. She will insist that my grandma is bewitched. Oh well, I am a nurse. I don’t believe in such things.

This is when I started to suspect that she has dementia. Indeed, the signs and symptoms were being manifested already. I want to tackle the disease and point out why I came to this conclusion.

Dementia is a word for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.

The most common symptom of dementia is memory loss. My lola will have a tendency to forget simple things. However, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia.

How common is dementia?

Dementia is a common condition. In England alone, there are currently 570,000 people living with dementia. That number is expected to double over the next 30 years.

Usually dementia occurs in people who are 65 or over. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop it.

It is estimated that dementia occurs in:

  • 1.4% of men and 1.5% of women aged between 65 and 69,
  • 3.1% of men and 2.2% of women aged between 70 and 74,
  • 5.6% of men and 7.1% of women aged between 75 and 79,
  • 10.2 % of men and 14.1% of women aged between 80 and 84, and
  • 19.6% of men and 27.5% of women aged 85 or over.

Types of dementia

Listed below are the different types of dementia.

  • Alzheimer’s disease, where small clumps of protein, known as plaques, begin to develop around brain cells. This disrupts the normal workings of the brain.
  • Vascular dementia, where problems with blood circulation result in parts of the brain not receiving enough blood and oxygen.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies, where abnormal structures, known as Lewy bodies, develop inside the brain.
  • Frontotemporal dementia, where the frontal and temporal lobes (two parts of the brain) begin to shrink. Unlike other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia usually develops in people who are under 65. It is much rarer than other types of dementia.

What causes dementia?

Dementia is caused by the destruction of brain cells. A head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor or a problem like Alzheimer’s disease can damage brain cells. Some people have a family history of dementia.  Well, my grandmother has a history of hypertension.

What are the common signs and symptoms of dementia?

Dementia causes many problems for the person who has it and for the person’s family. Many of the problems are caused by memory loss. Some common symptoms of dementia are listed below. Not everyone who has dementia will experience all of these symptoms. The following are present in my grandmother:

  • Recent memory loss. People with dementia will always forget simple things. My grandmother will ask what the time is, every 5 minutes. Or sometimes she keeps on asking what the date is about 5-10 times.
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks. After bath, she used to hang her bath robe in a hanger, but oftentimes, she just leave it in the bathroom.
  • Problems with language. She will always forget simple words or use the wrong words.
  • Time and place disorientation. She’s always disoriented. She has a blurred vision. When she naps in the afternoon and wakes up, she will not know what the time is and where she is.
  • Poor judgment. She forgot to put her sweater on despite the cold weather. Simple things are forgotten.
  • Problems with abstract thinking. The budgeting in the house is taken cared of by my lola. Well, she always forgets the total sum of her money and what to do with it.
  • Misplacing things. She’ll always forget where her glasses are. She’ll put it on her wooden chair and will look for it in her bed.
  • Changes in mood. Sometimes, she’s irritable. Simple things may annoy her. At times, when she is hallucinating, she will become so violent and angry.
  • Personality changes. Lola sometimes is irritable, suspicious or fearful.
  • Loss of initiative. Lola is passive. She always wants to just listen to her radio.

Some families may experience what we are experiencing. It may be so hard to accept the fact that the people we love will have to undergo this kind of misery. We just have to strengthen our family support constantly and be more patient in taking care of them. We should understand the condition and not be judgmental about it. As for my lola’s case, she’s old. And I think I made her proud, at least. I have to take care of her just like the way she did. Once in a while I get so impatient especially when she hallucinates or gets moody. But then, all we need is to be there for them and understand what they feel. We owe it to them.