Tuesday, November 4, 2008

10 Warning Signs of Dementia

Dementia is a symptom of the degeneration of the brain and brain cells. Delirium is a symptom of external factors: polypharmacy, drug interactions, infections, viruses, illnesses, chemotherapy, and is often undiagnosed in health care practioners who miss it. Many are discharged from emergency with this treatable issues, and readmitted later.

There are many signs of dementia. The causes can be organic or caused by environmental stress, drugs, diabetes, brain injuries, cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic diseases. (See work by the Alzheimer Society for more research).

My father's brain tumour caused dementia, as did my mother's cancer treatments and drug treatments. In my father's case, he also had delirium, which masked a urinary tract infection. The fight for health care, however, is a difficult proposition. Some Emergency rooms are not trained in discovering the difference, or in diagnosing these issues. In our case, our father was sent home after being admitted the day of my mother's funeral, with no diagnosis or treatment.

There are ten signs which may cue you to become concerned. If you have a suspicion, it is advised that you seek a diagnosis early, since you may want to seek treatment to prevent deterioration, or to place a loved one on a list for a Long Term Care (LTC) placement. An Ottawa Citizen publication, "The Insidious Fog" (2006), said that of 12,000 CCAC clients, 2000 had dementia. They had a 5-year queue for placements, the 2nd longest time for the 4 LTC homes in that city. The Ottawa police said that 75% of their 70 missing person cases were as a result of wandering dementia patients.

The signs:
  1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day functions.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Disorientation of time and place
  5. Poor or decreased judgement
  6. Problems with abstract thinking
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood and behaviour
  9. Changes in personality
  10. Loss of imitative
Go with you loved one to you family physician and have them make a diagnosis. You will have access to many supportive programs, e.g., day away programs, respite care, support through CCAC for ADL and IADLs.

According to CSHA (from Cana Journal of Aging, 1994; 13: 470-487)
  • 75% of caregivers are women, 70% married, 29% employed,
  • 23% of caregivers were the person's wife, 12% the husband, 37% were children, 28% daughter, 9% sons
  • 23% were friends or relatives, 5% paid caregivers
Community Support Services

In my experience, some women object to having 'strangers' in their home providing assistance with ADLs. It is the family members who must insist on getting extra care, as those with responsibility for loved ones have an increased risk of depression for those with dependent dementia patients who lie in their own homes.
  • 40% of caregivers used a homemaker service
  • 20% used a home nurse
  • 9% used meals on Wheels
  • 8% used a day away program
Yet: people with dementia received fewer services that those without dementia but with the same level of disability.

No comments: