When an elderly person begins to behave in a strange, unusual, or simply weird way, relatives, of course, get upset but rarely believe that this might be a sign of a serious illness. Such oddities are often explained by a difficult temper, which, as we know, cannot be fixed. Or by an old age.
Dementia (impaired mental functioning due to brain damage) is not a natural phenomenon of old age, but a disease that needs to be treated. About 20% of people over seventy are affected by its various forms. If you want to recognize the trouble from the very beginning, you need to be extremely attentive to your relatives, communicate with them on a regular basis which implies more than just “hello – goodbye.” Dementia begins almost imperceptibly.
On the first stage, patient’s memory gets worse. Another sign is frequent mood swings, excessive lethargy and apathy or aggressiveness. Not always do relatives treat these symptoms seriously. Very often, mood swings are explained by the specifics of age or even get completely ignored. At the second stage of dementia, it becomes difficult for a patient to keep up the housework, take care of oneself – for example, going to the store for shopping turns into an almost impossible mission. A person can hardly navigate in space, may get lost on a long-familiar street or even in one’s own apartment. It is already impossible not to notice the sad changes in a person at this stage of the disease.
Families usually seek help from a doctor on the second stage of the disease. Such patients should be regularly observed by a neurologist and psychiatrist.
Dementia in its third stage leaves a serious mark on the life of an elderly person and his family. Patients stop to recognize their loved ones, cannot eat and go to the toilet on their own, moving around the apartment becomes more and more difficult task. Dependence on the help of others is growing from day to day. At this point the question of who will constantly look after the patient inevitably arises. Relatives of the patient learn what is a pca (Patient Care Assistant).
Relatives should remember that a person suffering from dementia becomes a stranger to himself – he lives in a very specific, reserved world, where communications are either very fragile or completely destroyed. Personality sometimes changes beyond recognition. Patients may:
not recognize their own home and try to leave in a random direction;
not recognize their own children and grandchildren;
not sleep at night;
behave aggressively and violently attack those who try to help;
unfairly accuse their caregivers of stealing or ill-treatment.