Age and Dementia
Unfortunately many of our parents may develop dementia when they get to a certain age. For me, this was when my mother reached her late 80's. I'm guessing, though, that she probably had early stages of dementia for a while before we saw there was something actually wrong, rather than the forgetfulness which we usually associate with old age.
Symptoms of Dementia
On talking to friends whose parents had also developed dementia, we all observed these common symptoms which developed reasonably quickly over time:
- poor short term memory
- lose of interest in hobbies they used to enjoy
- a tendency to spend quite a bit of time dozing during the day
- a lack of appetite
- a long time spent chewing food and the inability to swallow
- a general lack of energy and enthusiasm
- anger and frustration with the world
- an unsteadiness on their feet
One concern that arises with short term memory loss is the inability to remember daily medication which may be needed for other conditions. There are of course the handy blister packs where pills are divided into days of the week but as they may not actually remember what day it is, this solution may prove ineffective. For peace of mind, you may need to arrange for daily home help to come in to ensure they take their medication.
Living at Home vs Hospital Care
The health professionals I spoke to said they prefer patients to stay in their own home for as long as possible if they have support mechanisms in place. They do, however, acknowledge that because patients are so vulnerable, there is always the possibility that something may occur which causes this situation to change. For our family, the crunch came when my mother, in her unsteadiness, slipped in the kitchen when making dinner, and badly broke her shoulder. This meant she could no longer live in her own home and we needed to arrange for her to live in a hospital care unit.
While she was in hospital care I was able to observe her marked decline which occurred quite rapidly. One of the most upsetting symptoms to observe was her not being able to walk more than 2-3 steps without having to sit down. Initially I thought this was due to the fact that she wasn't getting any exercise and so her muscles were protesting. But after a while I realized this was yet another symptom of dementia.
When I have spoken to friends about their parents and listened to the symptoms they describe, they could almost be talking about my mother as the symptoms and situations are very similar. In addition, in most cases their parents passed away within a matter of months from the time that their symptoms worsened. Sadly, in my case, my mother passed away a year ago and when I think of her I try to remember how she used to be before she was robbed of her personality and love of life.
If you have a parent who is also suffering from dementia, be patient with them and try to remember who they were before they were inflicted with this cruel condition.
I send you my best wishes.