This week is Dementia Awareness Week in the UK, but it’s also essential to talk about it here in the US. There are currently more than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide. Every year nearly 10 million new cases are diagnosed. There are many forms of dementia, and its effect takes a toll on the individual and their loved ones. Dementia can also impact home ownership, aging in place, and end-of-life housing plans. Here is what you should know.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a decline in cognitive function, including memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills – severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia is a part of illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease. Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:
- Memory loss, such as forgetting recently learned information, important dates, and events, or relying heavily on memory aids like notes or reminders.
- Difficulty with communication like finding the right words, repeating phrases or stories, or having trouble following conversations.
- Poor judgment, poor decision-making – especially with money, and not recognizing danger.
- Changes in mood or behavior, such as becoming confused, suspicious, fearful, or anxious in familiar surroundings.
- Disorientation, like getting lost in otherwise familiar places, not knowing where they are, or how they got there.
- Difficulty completing routine tasks like cooking, cleaning, or paying bills.
- Personality changes, including becoming more withdrawn, irritable, or apathetic.
Dementia can affect individuals differently. A person with dementia may experience some or all these symptoms to varying degrees, which may worsen over time.
If you see the signs of dementia in a loved one, it’s best to consult their doctor about next steps in providing care.
Aging in Place
Aging in place allows older adults to remain in their homes rather than moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home. However, aging in place has some challenges, especially when someone may be experiencing the early stages of dementia.
Dementia can complicate aging in place due to the decline in cognitive function, making it challenging for individuals to live independently safely. Safety concerns around cooking, bathing, or managing household appliances can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
It’s also not uncommon for people with dementia to wander or become disoriented. They may also forget to take medications or take the wrong dosage. Since dementia can impact communication, they may feel socially isolated and lonely.
The Effect on Families
When a person with dementia ages in place or, in some cases, moves in with family, there is an additional burden placed on caregivers. Family members need to provide increasing levels of care, which can be overwhelming when someone isn’t trained in healthcare or is handling care on top of the regular demands of their daily lives, such as work or children.
Dementia can also mean the home needs to be modified to accommodate safety concerns and mobility issues, increasing the burden on the older adult’s family.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with dementia, now is the time to plan. Consider how long they will be able to stay in their home, what long-term care may look like for them, or what additional tasks you may have selling their home or moving them closer to your family.
We should all be aware of the effects of dementia, not just on individuals but also on their families and communities. Here are some resources to help you with a dementia diagnosis in your family.
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