Caring for a "challenging" elder can be one of the hardest things you'll ever do. I know -- I went through a year of hell before I figured it out.
I had been the light of my father's life -- but with the onset of dementia he turned on me, doing and saying things that I would have never believed he could do. Having no experience with elder care, I just didn't get it. I thought it was just due to his bad temper of a lifetime and his need to control, which it was, but it was also the very beginning of dementia that intermittently made his actions even more illogical and irrational than ever before.
When he threw two little dilapidated hand towels at me, screaming and swearing at me for throwing them out, I was stunned and sobbed my heart out. With the knowledge I have now I'd say, "This seems illogical, this seems irrational. Red flag -- it is!" And I'd haul him off kicking and screaming to the Alzheimer's Association's best recommendation for a geriatric dementia specialist to be evaluated right away. I'd know not to waste time with his regular doctor who didn't specialize in dementia.
Recognizing Dementia Symptoms Before It's Too Late
The stereotype of a person with dementia (Alzheimer's is just one of many types) is that of someone who doesn't know what they are doing. That's Stage Three, but there is a long road before one gets there.
Dementia starts very intermittently and is generally ignored by families who think that these strange behaviors are just a normal part of aging: Stage One lasts two to four years; Stage Two lasts two to ten years; and Stage Three lasts one to three years. In the beginning, your loved one may have a raging temper tantrum and then suddenly be as sweet as pie. Because there are usually long periods of normalcy in-between, the tendency is to want to forget about the irrational incident instead of seeking treatment immediately.
Statistically families wait four years before they reach out for help -- usually after a crisis. By that time, however, the person has gone through Stage One and is starting into Stage Two already, which usually requires full-time care.
Getting medication for your loved one as soon as you recognize the early warning signs of dementia can slow its progress for two to four years doctors say, saving your family a lot of heartache and money. It will also save our society the burden of caring for so many elders who have progressed into Stage Two sooner than need be.
Consult a geriatric dementia specialist for the medications that may slow the progression of the dementia: Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl.
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