He keeps losing his credit card; she forgot her daughter's birthday and missed an important meeting that was on her calendar for months. Is this dementia?
We joke and make light of these so-called "senior moments," yet quiet fear bites into our secret hearts dreading the notion that it might be dementia. Mom used to call it Oldtimers disease, yet dementia is not part of the normal aging process. So what is dementia?
Dementia isn't a specific disease; it broadly describes all diseases and illnesses affecting memory and cognitive processing. It distresses our ability to solve problems and remember people and places, and it robs our minds while leaving our physical body relativity intact. Dementia comes in different diseases, such as vascular disease, Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's, which is the most common, accounting for more than 75% of all dementias.
Dementia robs our short-term memory, and those with dementia live in the current moment. Thinking skills, planning, strategizing, and weighing the consequence of present actions are casualties of dementia. Likewise, the facts and skills we have most recently learned, such as operating our new security system, an event on our calendar, and cooking a favorite recipe, are also lost. Losing current data interrupts our daily lives leading to frustration which blocks commonly used filters that we need to keep these frustrations in check.
Regardless of disease-causing dementia, the results are similar – cognitive decline, lost filters, and memory loss, all leading to disruptive behaviors. These symptoms can challenge caregivers, loved ones, and one's ability to function independently.
Most dementia doesn't have cures or effective treatment, yet diagnosis, empathy, understanding of the disease, symptoms management, and caring interventions can create a calm and pleasant journey through dementia diseases.