Hold their hand - Understand Dementia
Dementia is a term most know and for those who don’t, we’re sure you have come across the word. It is a neurological disorder that gradually affects the brain, causing memory loss, difficulty communicating, confusion, and impaired thinking. It’s something like our mind not being able to connect the dots to complete functions. There are movies like Still Alice, Away from Her, The Notebook, etc. that try to help us understand dementia or its symptoms but what we see is only a fraction of the struggle. Dementia can be caused by a variety of factors, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Although there are several diseases that can cause dementia, the symptoms mostly become quite similar, whatever the cause. The feeling of forgetting yourself, your loved ones, losing your independence – it's unfathomable.
Symptoms of dementia can include forgetfulness, difficulty with problem-solving and reasoning, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, loss of initiative, and changes in mood and personality. As the condition progresses, individuals with dementia may also experience difficulty with basic tasks such as dressing, grooming, and eating.
While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are treatments and interventions that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for individuals living with the condition. It is important to seek medical attention if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms of dementia. It is possible to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms with medication, lifestyle changes, and other treatments.
If someone in your whānau is diagnosed with dementia, there are several ways to help:
Encourage them to see a doctor: It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after noticing any signs of dementia.
Provide emotional support: Dementia can be a scary and isolating experience for the person affected and their family. If possible, provide emotional support and reassurance, as well as opportunities for socialisation and engagement.
Create a safe and supportive environment: People with dementia may become disoriented or confused, so it is important to create a safe and supportive environment. This may include removing potential hazards from the home, ensuring that the person has a routine and structure to their day, and providing assistance with daily activities as needed. A great tip would be to keep a polaroid camera handy – click away and capture every memory to make it a lasting one.
Learn about the disease: It is important to educate yourself about dementia and its symptoms. This can help you better understand what your family member is going through and how you can best support them.
Seek help from outside sources: Caring for a family member with dementia can be a full-time job, and it is important to seek help from outside sources when needed. This may include hiring a caregiver, joining a support group, or enlisting the help of friends and family members. It’s best to get in touch with a trusted health professional who may be able to guide you.
Take care of yourself while you care for them. It’s all about you holding their hand through their journey of understanding and living with dementia. There are education and support programmes available for carers at https://da.org.nz/education/
Watch this heartwarming video by Alzheimer’s Society (UK) and get a better understanding of dementia - Kids Interview People With Dementia – Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Action Week 2019 Here’s to living your best life! The Knowledge Tree Sources: