What is Dementia?

The results of my mother’s geriatric assessment determined that she had dementia.  I assumed this word “dementia was a synonym for Alzheimer’s disease.  However, her geriatrician assured me that dementia is a term that describes a constellation of symptoms, and not specifically a single disease.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes dementia is defined as:

  “… A word for a group of symptoms cause n  d by disorders that affect the brain.  It is not a specific disease.  People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating.  They may lose ability their ability to solve problems or control their emotions.  Their personalities may change.  They may become agitated or see things that are not there.”

Initially, the symptoms of my mom’s dementia were subtle. The short term memory loss was the first sign.  She recalled great stories from her past, but could not recall what I said to her a few minutes before.  She struggled with routine tasks that use to come so naturally.  I notice that she was challenged with her check book, and basic bill paying.  Tasks that required her to execute complex activities or tasks were difficult.  This included cooking, driving the car and using the computer. My mom’s depression and anxiety symptoms increased and she was quick to get angry and agitated.

Mom’s diagnosis of dementia was not determined by one test.  Rather, her geriatric assessment relied on numerous tests, surveys, and interviews.  It is important to properly diagnose and treat dementia. The clinical recommendations of a geriatrician and/or clinician that specialized in geriatric care may suggest medications and strategies that help ease and delay the symptoms.  The best gift I could give my mom as a caregiver was an appointment with a geriatrician.  The outcome of her assessment was a new medication for her dementia diagnosis as well as a recommendation for assisted living.  These two suggestions have improved her overall quality of life.






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I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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