As we live longer, dementia is becoming more common in developed societies. Partly this is because people now live long enough to begin to develop symptoms of age-related neurological degeneration. Partly it is because doctors have become better at diagnosing it. Some people have also suggested that lifestyle and environmental factors may have something to do with the rise, but this has not been confirmed on a large enough scale to truly explain the rise in dementia cases. It is likely that you know someone with dementia, or know someone who knows someone who does. Many of us will end up seeing our loved ones through dementia. It is therefore worth learning a little bit about dementia, and how to care for those who have it.
Causes of Dementia
So, what causes dementia? Well, 'dementia' is in fact an umbrella term for a number of conditions which bring about degradation of brain function. Brain cells can be killed off or have their function impeded through a number of things, including years of alcoholism, smoking, liver and/or kidney disease, strokes, head injuries, Vitamin B12 deficiency, brain tumors, brain infections, thyroid disease, Alzheimer's Disease, and simple age-related degeneration. Some of these causes are curable, and the dementia they bring about can be temporary. Others are more permanent and irreversible. In such cases, one must learn how to do their best for their declining loved one.
People suffering from dementia may suffer from 'meltdowns', which can be scary for those who witness them. These frequently come out of character, and it is important to remember that the meltdown is not personal, it is a symptom of the disease rather than a transformation in your loved one's personality. Meltdowns are often borne of an inability to communicate correctly, or to cope with present situations in a coherent manner. Physical discomfort, changes in routine, changes in familiar environments, over-stimulation, fatigue, incongenial surroundings, poor communication, and medications which provoke aggression or impulsiveness can all bring on meltdowns.
Handling Agitation of Dementia
Staying calm can be difficult when dealing with a dementia patient, but it is paramount nonetheless. If you cannot stay calm, then get help to deal with the immediate issue and remove yourself from the situation until your have achieved emotional equilibrium again. If your loved one is suffering from frequent meltdowns, make a note of their triggers and endeavour to avoid them. This may be tough, but remember that the dementia is unlikely to spontaneously vanish, so the best thing you can do for your loved one is to keep them calm, comfortable, and happy. Develop new ways of communicating with dementia patients. Avoid confrontation, keep your words simple, and don't overload them with questions. Don't try to hurry answers from them when they are slow or confused. Be patient, be kind, and be loving. Reassure them when they begin to become agitated, and try to remain calm yourself. Setting a calm example can work wonders in these situations.