When Your Parent Is Diagnosed With Dementia: What You Should Know

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When your parents begin to reach retirement age and beyond, you may begin to notice significant changes in their physical and mental capabilities. You may have to help them stand up after sitting for a prolonged period of time, or may have to repeat the same story or fact several times before it sinks in and they remember on their own. While this is all a normal part of the aging process, your parent being diagnosed with dementia is another story entirely. Dementia is decidedly not a "normal" part of the aging process, and to better understand what a dementia diagnosis actually means and know what you can do to help your loved one, you need to get to know dementia a little better. 

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a set of mental behaviors and memory problems that are caused by either a traumatic brain injury or a brain disease. Dementia does not refer to a specific brain disease and the term is often mistakenly used interchangeably with Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is just one form of dementia, though it is the most common. If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, they have dementia. However, if your parent is diagnosed with dementia, they do not necessarily have Alzheimer's. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia?

The most commonly recognized symptoms of dementia involve memory loss. People who suffer from dementia start out by losing their ability to retain new information in their short term memory. They may also lose their train of thought in the middle of talking or performing a routine activity, and may start to get easily confused and disoriented even in familiar surroundings. These memory issues become progressively worse and over time will also affect long term memory as well. 

Other symptoms of dementia include difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, aggression or other sudden changes in mood and personality, and a lack of verbal restraint (they lose the filter between their mind and their mouth). Additionally, as dementia becomes more advanced, a person can become extremely paranoid, experience hallucinations, and become increasingly anxious and/or depressed. 

What Can You Do To Help?

Many forms of dementia can be managed and the progress slowed through a combination of medications and mental health assistance. Adult psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry practitioners are adept at counseling individuals with various forms of dementia. They can help teach them to cope with their diagnosis, treat any depression or anxiety that arises through counseling and/or medication, and can help to monitor your parent's overall health and the effectiveness of treatments.

Family psychiatric sessions can also be quite helpful. Your parent will feel supported by you and other members of your family, and all of you will be in a safe space to discuss fears, feelings, concerns, and questions regarding your parent's dementia and what to expect as the disease progresses. This family therapy can work wonders to help keep both you and your parent as healthy and comfortable with the diagnosis as possible. 

Now that you know more about your parent's dementia diagnosis, you are better prepared to deal with what is to come. And more importantly, you will be able to provide the love and support your parent needs as they struggle with the symptoms and side effects of dementia. Contact an adult psychiatry center like Ghaly, Nasri - Ghaly Healing & Wellness Center for more information.