Living with Dementia creates a unique set of challenges for both the person with Dementia and the loved ones or the caregivers. In most cases, the loved one and the caregiver will be the same. The person with Dementia can be faced with challenges such as Memory loss, Confusion, Disorientation, and even Losing the Ability to Complete Familiar, Everyday Task. These challenges for the person with Dementia can range from mild to severe, depending on the stage of the illness. For loved ones, having to confront these new challenges, I will try to connect what may seem like odd behavior to what may be taking place at the time.
The challenge of Memory loss.
Memory loss in a person living with Dementia can be as mild as just forgetting words and names or as severe not being able to communicate simple basic needs, basic needs like requesting food to eat or clothes to wear. An example of a mild case of Memory Loss versus a severe case would be the person with Dementia all of a sudden not being able to identify certain familiar objects versus that person with Dementia no longer remembering anything in his or her surroundings. In the beginning, stage loved ones may dismiss it as part of the aging process. Growing up, I can remember hearing family members saying, “Mom is getting down, seems like she is losing her mind”.
Severe Memory loss, like not recognizing the immediate surroundings, can cause extreme anxiety in a person with Dementia. He or she may set out to find a familiar place. In a panic, this person may walk for miles away from home. In today’s world, we may call this elopement but in most cases, the person with Dementia is simply trying to find home.
Walking away and getting lost is a very real possibility, I can tell you about this with a great degree of certainty. I knew a gentleman from the neighborhood where I grew up, he was like a mentor to me. He developed Dementia, walked away one day and to this day has never been found.
The challenge of Confusion.
Confusion in a person Living with Dementia, again could be as mild as the person putting the house keys in the refrigerator instead of on the kitchen counter or as severe as the person consistently, not being able to find the bathroom that is attached to the bedroom that he or she has slept in for a number of years. The confusion most often goes hand in hand with Memory Loss. The Memory Loss may very well contribute to the confusion. This Memory loss in a person with Dementia is not just forgetting things, only to remember them later, that memory may be gone forever.
As the illness progresses, regular, everyday living becomes more of a challenge for both the person with Dementia and the loved one. In some cases, the confusion brings along with it suspicion, mistrust, frustration, agitation and sometimes anger. The person living with Dementia may misplace certain articles of value, like a purse or jewelry and accuse the love one of stealing the articles. Accusations like these can be devastating for a loved one and may sometimes lead to anger and outright frustration. I can personally, remember hearing this statement, “come and get your Mom, I think she has completely lost her mind”.
The Challenge of Disorientation.
Disorientation in a person Living with Dementia, again, can be as mild as the person believing the day of the week is Monday when the day of the week is actually Wednesday or thinking it’s time for breakfast when it’s actually time for dinner. Some examples of severe Disorientation in a person with Dementia would be the person thinking the year is 1996 and the current President is Ronald Reagan. Another example of severe Disorientation in the person with Dementia would be the person thinking that he or she is still living in Kentucky even though he or she has been living in Florida for the last five years.
This Disorientation can be very frustrating for both the person with Dementia and the loved one. The person with Dementia may do something as simple as deciding to take a casual walk on a beautiful, Spring morning in Florida but finds himself or herself trying to find the way back to the beautiful house at the cul-de-sac in Kentucky.
The Challenge of Losing The Ability to Complete a Familiar Everyday Task.
For the person Living with Dementia, Losing the ability to complete a familiar everyday task, again can be as mild as not knowing where to find the toothbrush or as severe as the person not knowing how to brush his or her teeth anymore. Another example of mild versus severe may be the person with Dementia urinating in a trash can or in something that looks vaguely similar to a commode versus the person with Dementia no longer recognizing the urges to use the bathroom. In severe cases, even attempting to take the person with Dementia to the bathroom on a regular basis becomes a struggle. The struggle is not only getting to the bathroom, sometimes that is the easy part, getting the person with Dementia to sit on the commode could literally turn into a fight.
The challenges of Memory Loss, Confusion, Disorientation, and Losing the Ability to be able to Complete Familiar Everyday task, can be uniquely weaved together. It may be quite difficult to determine where one stops and the other begins. In some cases, they may even be interchangeable. The love ones now have the daunting task of trying to understand and adjust to these unique changes.
The number of persons or families Living with Dementia is on the increase. We will find that the individuals are different but the challenges are similar. More often than not, talking about these types of issues can help loved ones to develop a better understand and hopefully better coping skills.