What Is Dementia?

By | 2015-09-30T16:06:51+00:00 September 30th, 2015|News|0 Comments

umbrella-resized-600Written by: Gail Shaw, Care Coordinator -What do an umbrella and dementia have in common? One of the definitions under the word umbrella, in the Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, defines an umbrella as something that encompasses many different elements or groups. Dementia encompasses many different diseases under it. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and vascular disease to just name a few. The list really does go on and on.
The question “what is dementia” comes up frequently during conversations with family caregivers, who are finding themselves on the journey of caring for a loved one with memory loss. These caregivers are told their loved one has dementia or dementia-like Alzheimer’s. It then becomes very confusing, especially if the physician giving the diagnosis doesn’t take the time to explain what the patient will be facing and what the family caregiver needs to look into to be able to care for this individual.
First thing everyone should know is that dementia does not mean you are crazy. Many people have grown up thinking dementia or oldtimers (as some call it) means you’re crazy. They may have witnessed first-hand a grandparent, aunt, uncle or maybe a parent acting strange or forgetful. They probably were embarrassed by this person’s behavior and actions and they do not want to be thought of as being crazy like their relative.
The truth is, we didn’t really have a clear understanding of dementia or the other diseases under the dementia umbrella until the last few decades. A wealth of knowledge has been gained, but we still have much to learn on each of the diseases which cause memory loss. Hopefully, in the near future there will be answers. Many researchers are working tirelessly to find answers to the cause and prevention of all dementias.
What we do know about dementia is that it is a disease that affects the brain. It is very important that people know it is a progressive brain disease. There are many types of dementia and they produce loss of memory, social skills, intellect, emotional and behavior changes. There are different kinds of medications and behavioral therapies to help the individual who is experiencing any of the above mentioned situations.
Here at St. John’s Community Care we developed a poster showing an umbrella with some of the more common dementias listed. It was created out of the need to help explain dementia and the diseases it encompasses to family caregivers attending our support groups. It has been a great tool to open up conversation on the topic of memory loss, types of dementias and why it is important to know with which type of dementia with which a loved one has been diagnosed by their physician.
If you know someone who has been diagnosed with memory loss or you are concerned about their possible memory loss, then it is best to get a diagnosis and educate yourself on that particular type of dementia. You may want to consider attending a support group to gain insight and understanding on memory loss and how other cope.
St. John’s Community Care is a trusted agency for advice, education and programs that assist family caregivers and their family member experiencing memory loss. It’s not a journey you have to take by yourself. Please call us to see how we may be able to help you.
618-344-5008 or email info@stjohnscc.org