Impact of Dementia Affects Over 5 Million Americans
Dementia is one of the biggest fears that older adults face. As a family member, you can brighten the loved one's day by having conversations that bring back memories from the past. If your family member with dementia gets confused, frustrated or upset by your questions, change the subject. You can always rephrase the question and try asking it again at another time.
When you are dealing with the impact of dementia - try to look for ways that help resolve your frustrations by being prepared - learn as much as you can about how it effects a loved one.
Here are some of today's leading theories about the impact of dementia:
In 1900, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47. Today, the impact of dementia is greater because people live well into their 80's and 90's. This is good news for most of us and many seniors are enjoying an active, engaged life. However, one downside of a long life is that aging increases your risk for dementia - 15% of people over 65 have the disease; 40% of people over 85. Most researchers don't think that dementia disease is a 'normal' part of aging. Researchers remain hopeful that we will develop strategies to delay the onset of dementia or prevent it altogether.
Researchers have found that if you have one or more parents or close family member with dementia disease, you are generally considered to be at greater risk for developing it too. One gene in particular called ApoE4 increases your likelihood of getting Alzheimer's disease. Like all risk factors, a family history may or may not lead to the development of the disease.
A person's lifestyle may increase the risk of dementia disease. For example, individuals who sustain concussions or head injury (through sports, work or accidents) have a greater risk of getting a form of dementia call Alzheimer's disease. Positive lifestyle factors that may prevent Alzheimer's or delay the onset include exercise (break a sweat at least once a day), a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, socialization, treating depression, lifelong learning ('use it or lose it') and avoiding tobacco use.
Two areas of ongoing research include studying the build up of plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaque consists of the protein beta amyloid that accumulates in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are the twisted fibres of another protein tau (rhymes with 'how') that accumulates inside nerve cells. These proteins most likely block the ability of the cells to communicate, leading to cell death. This cellular death ravages the brain and causes the progressive symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The Alzheimer's Association points out that 90% of what we've learned about Alzheimer's disease has been discovered in the last 15 years. Let's hope that the next 15 years leads to the breakthroughs we need to help Alzheimer's disease itself become a 'distant memory.'
Contact In-Homecare if you need help caring for a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. We know how devastating the impact of dementia can be on family.
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