November 18, 2020

What Is Dementia?

Elderly man gazes out the window of his home.

Did you know that every three seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia? Millions of people across the world have dementia and millions more are supporting those living with dementia. But, what exactly is dementia? And, why is there a stigma associated with it?

Defining Dementia

Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are many types of dementia, the most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. When an individual is living with a form of dementia, the brain is experiencing changes due to the pathology or disease in the brain. As the disease progresses, the individual will exhibit symptoms.

10 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  3. Challenges with planning and problem solving
  4. Confusion with time and place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

If these symptoms become noticeable to those close to the individual, it is important to schedule a medical appointment to help identify the root cause of these symptoms. If it is in fact dementia, it is imperative to get an early diagnosis.

Overcoming the Stigma

While there is currently not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it does not mean life is over for an individual after a diagnosis. It is important to overcome the negative stigma by acknowledging who the individual is and was before the diagnosis. So often people living with Alzheimer’s disease experience strain on family relationships, a withdrawal from friendships or exclusion from conversations by medical professionals. We can do our part to reduce the stigma by talking directly to the person living with dementia, empowering them with independence and supporting them when needed.

Caring for Someone with Dementia

When there is a dementia diagnosis, a person-centered care approach may be one approach considered to support the individual. The foundations for this approach include:

  • Getting to know the person
  • Maximizing independence
  • Personalizing care to meet individual needs and preferences
  • Adjusting care approaches to reflect day-to-day needs and abilities
  • Providing ongoing opportunities for engagement that have meaning and purpose

For more tips for the care and support of someone living with dementia, visit:
 HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com or alz.org.