What do you think about when you hear the word Dementia?
Most people will first think, Alzheimer’s and then next memory problems. Am I correct? That’s what you were thinking wasn’t it?
Please erase that from your thoughts.
I want you now to picture this, Dementia= Brain Failure! Now say it out loud, go ahead say “Dementia equals brain failure”.
This truly is brain failure and not just Alzheimer’s, we are making a big mistake by thinking it is all about Alzheimer’s.
Dementia is really an umbrella term that covers now over 100 different types of dementia. But there is an interesting statistic, only 2/10 people will have had a good evaluation. Most will get a short doctor visit with a quick screening that isn’t a great tool to determine if you have Alzheimer’s or not.
There are 4 basic truths about Dementia:
- At least 2 parts of the brain are dying – one related to memory and one other
- It is chronic – it will not get better
- It is progressive- it gets worse
- It is terminal- it will eventually kill
It is BOTH – a chemical change in the brain AND – a structural change in the brain – So… Sometimes they can & sometimes they can’t. Have you ever noticed someone with dementia know you as their daughter or son one day and then another day think you are their sister or brother? The reason is the chemical changes, sometimes the messages the neurons are sending are strong enough to reach another neuron and they can make sense of it and sometimes the chemical isn’t strong enough and the message can’t quite reach another neuron and it gets lost. Wow that’s interesting, isn’t it? One day they know how to stand up and walk to the dining room and the next day when you ask them to stand up they just sit there. Have you ever heard a care partner say, “they are doing it on purpose, they could stand up yesterday”? Now try saying this- They are doing the best they can. A person living with brain change is doing the best they can. So, we need to change our expectations and not expect the person with the failing brain to change.
Here are the changes the brain has when a person is living with dementia:
- Sensory Changes
- Self-Care Changes
- Impulse & Emotional Control
Knowing now all the changes that are involved, what can we do?
We need to use empathy and go with the flow. We need to change how we talk, what we say, how we say it and also how we respond.
The best way that we can help starts with our approach.
The training that New Dementians offers is the key to helping you with your approach. Using Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care training people are learning how to go from being a care giver to being a care partner and being able to respond not react to challenging situations.