How Does Dementia Affect Daily Life?
Dementia is a progressive neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory, thinking, and reasoning skills.
Dementia is not a specific disease but an umbrella term encompassing various conditions that cause a decline in cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately 60-80% of cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.
Due to the decline in cognitive abilities that individuals with dementia face, their daily life is greatly affected, particularly as the disease advances. By understanding the challenges faced by individuals with dementia, we can foster a more supportive and inclusive environment.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways in which the lives of those with dementia can be affected and how these effects can be minimised…
Dementia significantly impacts an individual’s memory, particularly short-term memory. Short-term memory refers to the ability to retain and recall recent information or events. For individuals with dementia, this aspect of memory is particularly vulnerable. As the condition progresses, individuals may find it increasingly challenging to remember recent conversations, appointments, or even everyday tasks. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, unaware that they have already received an answer. Simple activities, such as remembering where they placed an item or following a recipe, become increasingly difficult.
The impairment of short-term memory can lead to frustration and confusion for individuals with dementia, as well as their caregivers. It is important for caregivers to approach these situations with patience and understanding, providing gentle reminders and reassurances when necessary.
Behaviour and Personality Changes
Dementia not only affects cognitive function but also often leads to significant alterations in behaviour, mood, and personality. These changes can be distressing for both individuals with dementia and their caregivers, as they may struggle to understand and manage these new behaviours effectively. The changes can include but aren’t limited to…
Agitation and Restlessness: Individuals with dementia may become easily agitated, restless, or fidgety without apparent cause. This restlessness can lead to pacing, wandering, or an inability to settle down, making it challenging for them to engage in daily activities or maintain a sense of calm.
Aggression and Irritability: Some individuals with dementia may display aggressive behaviour, such as verbal outbursts, physical aggression, or resistance to care.
Depression and Anxiety: Depression and anxiety are common among individuals with dementia. The decline in cognitive abilities and the awareness of their condition can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or fear.
Changes in Personality: They may become more irritable, apathetic, or socially withdrawn. Traits and behaviours that were once characteristic of their personality may diminish or change completely. This shift can be challenging for loved ones, as they may mourn the loss of the person they once knew.
Judgement and Decision Making
Dementia affects an individual’s judgement and decision-making abilities, making it difficult for them to make sound choices and solve problems. As the condition progresses, cognitive functions related to planning, organising, and problem-solving become impaired. This can have a significant impact on daily life. For example, individuals with dementia may struggle with managing finances, as they have difficulty understanding bills or remembering due dates.
They may also find it challenging to maintain personal hygiene and engage in self-care activities, forgetting to bathe or brush their teeth regularly. Additionally, individuals may forget to take their medications as prescribed or have trouble understanding dosage instructions. This can have negative consequences for their health and well-being.
Attention and Concentration
As the condition progresses, cognitive functions related to focus and sustained attention become increasingly impaired. Individuals with dementia may find it challenging to follow conversations, especially in group settings or when there are distractions present.
Activities that once brought them joy or satisfaction, such as reading, hobbies, or complex puzzles, may become increasingly difficult or even abandoned due to their reduced ability to focus and sustain attention. The impact of attention and concentration difficulties extends beyond social interactions and hobbies. Individuals with dementia may also struggle with practical tasks that require sustained attention, such as cooking, or even safely navigating their environment.
Minimising the Effects of Dementia
Minimising the effects of dementia involves adopting strategies and approaches that can improve the quality of life for individuals living with the condition. While dementia presents challenges, there are steps that can be taken to support cognitive function, enhance emotional well-being, and maintain independence for as long as possible. Creating a structured routine can provide a sense of stability and familiarity, reducing confusion and anxiety. Simplifying communication by using clear and concise language, providing visual cues, and breaking tasks into smaller steps can enhance understanding and facilitate engagement.
Adapting the living environment to reduce clutter, ensure good lighting, and remove potential hazards can enhance safety and minimise confusion. Engaging in stimulating activities, such as music therapy, art therapy, or reminiscence therapy, can help maintain cognitive function and emotional well-being. Additionally, maintaining social connections, participating in support groups, and seeking support from healthcare professionals can provide valuable guidance, education, and emotional support to individuals with dementia and their caregivers.
When to Consider Care?
Determining when it’s time to consider specialised care for an individual with dementia is a complex and personal decision. There are certain signs and circumstances that indicate the need for additional support and professional assistance. These include a significant decline in functioning, where the person’s ability to perform daily tasks independently deteriorates rapidly, posing risks to their safety and well-being. If the individual exhibits severe agitation, aggression, or other challenging behaviours that become difficult to manage at home, seeking expert intervention can provide guidance and support.
Caregiver burnout is another critical factor to consider. When the demands of caring for a loved one with dementia become overwhelming and affect the caregiver’s physical and emotional well-being, exploring specialised care options such as a dementia care home like Lidder Care’s Newgate Lodge can ensure the individual’s needs are met effectively.
Do you need advice on care options for your loved one? Are you thinking about booking a viewing at one of our homes? Get in touch today on firstname.lastname@example.org