"I'm not stupid! I have Alzheimer's disease!"
–A person with Alzheimer's Disease
Dementia is the loss of intellectual functions such as remembering and reasoning. The loss is of a sufficient severity to interfere with a person's daily functions. Fundamental to our care program at Gianna Homes is an understanding of the dementing disease afflicting each of our residents.
Dementia is not a disease itself, but rather it is a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or physical conditions. The degree of damage and rate of progression varies, depending on both the cause of the symptoms and the particular individual affected. Some of the more familiar diseases that produce dementia include Alzheimer's disease, multi-infarct dementia, Huntington's disease and sometimes Parkinson's disease. Dementia can also be attributed to stroke, old age (though not considered a normal part of aging), brain diseases, head injuries, excessive alcohol and drug use.
Dementia can be present in either acute or chronic forms. Acute dementias are metabolic or systematic in nature. They respond to treatment and the damage can often be reversed. Chronic dementias, on the other hand, rarely can be treated successfully, since the damage that creates the dementia is structural and irreversible and there is permanent damage to brain tissue.
Dr. Alois Alzheimer first defined Alzheimers in 1907. It is the most common of the dementing disorders, and is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks brain cells and results in impaired memory, thinking, and behavior. The rate of progression, as with all dementias, varies from one person to another.
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Caregivers, both lay and professional, need to be aware that there is a direct correlation between the nature of the disease the person is experiencing and the behavior their loved one is exhibiting.
Therefore, professionals must first seek to learn about the essential person behind the disease. It is not possible to treat such people appropriately until we know the answers to the following basic questions:
Who is the man or woman?
What is important to him or her?
Does he or she have different perceptions than me?
How does he or she feel?
What were their personality, habits, routines, hobbies, and passions?
What is their family history?
Behavior-especially problem behavior-does not occur at random or in isolation. Behavior in cases of dementia follows a course that corresponds to the process of the disease.
The behavior of people with dementia is exacerbated by stressors such as terror, confusion, frustration, misconceptions, disorientation, and (justifiable) anger. The actions of the person afflicted are seldom premeditated, but instead are based on feelings rather than thoughts.
Alzheimer's is a disease that progresses without visible "markers." But we can observe the behaviors of someone afflicted to give us clues about that person's functional abilities. We then build a plan of care that appropriately addresses the person's needs.
Connecting our knowledge of the person and the disease he or she is experiencing to the behaviors he or she is exhibiting allows us to give appropriate care to that person. Using this link is the only true way to deliver dementia care. The hope and challenge that we face is to preserve and cherish the parts of the person that are not affected by the disease.
We are pleased to offer different resources that you may explore for more information on Alzheimer's Disease and other related dementia. See our list of books with reviews and websites that have more information.
An excellent source of information for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This site provides various links to resources, programs and services.
Provides info on programs and services in MN and offers an excellent six-session caregiver educational program on topics such as legal issues, dementia challenges and resources. They also offer an introductory informational meeting on what to do of you suspect a loved one has dementia.
Products designed for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and their caregivers.
Books Relating to Medical Research on Alzheimer's Disease
These books deal with medical investigations into the cause of Alzheimer's disease.
Aging with Grace by David Snowdon, Ph.D.
This book describes the significant research findings of the "Nun Study." Snowden is studying 678 nuns to learn more about aging and Alzheimer's disease. Buy This Book from Amazon.com
Hannah's Heirs – The quest for the Genetic Origins of Alzheimer's Disease by Daniel A. Pollen
An in depth look at the research which led to the discovery of Hannah's gene known to be a leading indicator of a rare form of early onset familial Alzheimer's disease. It also describes the risk factors that make an individual more susceptible to the more common, late-onset Alzheimer's. Buy This Book from Amazon.com