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Q: What is the Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia?

A: Dementia is a mental disorder that results in the loss of mental abilities for memory, attention, language and/or problem solving. Dementia often involves the deterioration of functions such as difficulty remembering learned movements like walking, getting dressed, bathing, or even eating and talking. It may result in failure to recognize what is seen. When we think of dementia, we often think of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disorder that gradually results in irreversible memory loss, unusual behavioral changes, personality changes, and a decline in thinking abilities.

Caring for a person with a mental disability such as dementia and Alzheimer's can be very challenging, demanding, tiring, and upsetting for loved ones. Imaging being married to someone for years, and then one day, they don't remember your name or even remember if they know you. Everyone caring for an individual with Alzheimer's is affected by the disease. It can be very painful for families or friends to watch a person deteriorate. They may feel like they have lost their loved ones.

Here are some tips in dealing with some of the challenging behaviors that accompany dementia and Alzheimer's:

  • Always assure the individual is safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Forgetfulness can lead to wandering and many other unsafe actions. Persons with dementia and Alzheimer's disease require supervision and surveillance at all times.
  • Be calm, understanding, patient, and flexible. Remember they are not being stubborn or difficult on purpose. Their disorder is the cause of their behaviors. Don't take their actions personally.
  • Help the person verbalize how they are feeling. "You seem angry." "You look sad today." "Is something worrying you." Then let them talk about their feelings.
  • Don't argue or get into a debate with the person. They may not be able to talk about what they have done or how they feel, and that is ok.
  • For some people, changing surroundings will be helpful, especially if they are in surroundings that are too crowded, too noisy, too dark or too bright. For others, a change in surroundings might be stressful and add to confusion.
  • Watch for signs of mental disorders or sudden changes in behavior. These changes need to be reported to a physician or healthcare professional.

Treatments for these mental disorders are available. A physician will determine which treatment options are best. Home healthcare mental health nursing and therapy programs may help for those that are homebound. Not all treatments will "cure" the disorder, but treatment options should always be explored as a way to help with the symptoms of the disorder.

Caring for a person with a mental disorder can be challenging and stressful. It's important to remember to care for yourself also. Take time to relax. Be sure to get a good amount of sleep, eat a nutritious diet, exercise routinely, and visit your physician regularly. You are just as important as the person you are caring for!

For more information, you can reach Celtic Healthcare at 800-355-8894 or visit our website at www.CelticHealthcare.com.

Celtic Healthcare

Celtic Healthcare is an innovative leader in the delivery of healthcare at home. We are driven by our passion for enhancing the health and quality of life of our clients and their families—during the stages of medical recovery, aging, or end-of-life. Celtic Healthcare provides homecare, hospice and virtual care services. Read more at www.CelticHealthcare.com and Ask the Expert

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