Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia with over 5 million people diagnosed in the United States alone. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that between 60%-80% of all dementia cases are from this debilitating disease. But what makes up the remaining 20%-40%? If all dementia is similar, does it really matter when considering the type of care a patient needs? Yes.
The stress of finding appropriate care for a loved one suffering with dementia is immense. In home care workers, visiting nurses, therapists, and allied care professionals need to communicate an understanding of the different causes and effects of differing dementias and how this correlates to the client’s care plan. By addressing the client’s specific needs, the care professional can develop a positive working relationship and provide personalized care that will be of greater benefit to the client.
Planning for Care
When we think of dementia suffers, we usually picture the elderly, people who are already managing health issues and medications and often times experiencing mobility issues. However, not all dementia care is for the elderly.
Lewy Body, fronto-temporal, and vascular dementias, while diagnosed in the elderly, can strike people in middle age. Alzheimer’s symptoms can appear at 65, an age where once people retired but is now hardly considered old. The symptoms of dementia are more similar among the diseases than different but the underlying causes of the dementia, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease, need a different level of care.
- Lewy Body dementia can affect people as young as 50 years old. This disease is caused by protein bodies that grow in nerve cells in the brain. The disease also mimics the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with trembling hands, loss of balance, and difficulty swallowing. Additionally, patients can experience visual hallucinations or delusions. A person suffering from this disease can live for up to 20 years after symptoms appear.
- Vascular dementia can develop as a result of aging or appear after a stroke. Early signs include confusion, disorientation, and loss of concentration. Like Lewy Body dementia, patients may have vision problems and hallucinations.
- Fronto-temporal dementia is a term used for a variety of conditions affecting the front and side parts of the brain. Like Lewy Body, it can strike people in middle age, as young as 45 years old. The Alzheimer’s Society reports that this condition often runs in families and is linked to a genetic mutation.
A patient in his or her mid-50s may have young children, parents that they are caring for, a career, significant financial issues, or needs for their family. A care plan should incorporate the needs of the patient and caregivers and the potential to provide support for many years. For instance, Lewy Body and vascular dementia patients may need regular physical therapy to keep them mobile, walkers to help with their balance, or they may progress to a wheelchair as the diseases advance.
Care givers wanting to keep their loved ones home and independent as long as possible will need to consider safety modifications to their homes such as grab bars in the bathroom, rails on the beds, or a rearrangement of furniture. These enhancements need to be appropriate and work with other household members.
Several forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia developing from Multiple Sclerosis or HIV-associated dementia to name a few, require more medical management than more common age-related ailments such as hypertension. Caregivers should consider more specialized home health care providers, such as trained nurses. Additionally, patients suffering in the early stages of these dementias may need more regular care sooner than others.
- Parkinson’s disease dementia develops at later stages of the disease. Patients have problems with reasoning and performing simple tasks. They may also experience hallucinations.
- Mixed dementia occurs when a person suffers from one or more form of dementia such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. It can be difficult to diagnose, as the normal progression of one particular type of dementia may not occur for each patient. For instance, one person may first suffer mood and behavior changes that point to depression or anxiety. Or the first symptoms could be memory loss or visual disorientation. However, as mixed dementia progresses, most patients will have problems walking and speaking making it essential that caregivers are aware of their needs.
People Come First
Comfort Home Care aides are dementia and Alzheimer’s care certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Our caregivers are trained to understand the phases of dementia, and changes in behavior. We use this information to provide the best care possible. We strive to understand a client’s health history and personal preferences, their current health and care needs, and what their future needs might be. We believe this is the best way to deliver meaningful care.