How to recognize and deal with dementia: a checklist for relatives

There are about two million people with dementia living in Russia. For many of their relatives, the disease came as a surprise – little is said about it, so loved ones notice something wrong too late.

Recently, we published a lot of material on the problem of dementia and received a huge number of readers’ stories, which only confirmed that due to a lack of information about this disease, families often do not know what to do next. We have prepared a short memo for relatives of elderly people.

– Signs of dementia can begin long before obvious manifestations, therefore, first of all, you need to be attentive to your older loved ones. You need to pay attention to strange phrases, unusual behavior, – says Alexander Shchetkin, president of the Altsrus Foundation for helping people with dementia and their families. – A person may not recognize the space, not understand what year it is, forget or confuse words, the purpose of objects, ask the same question, may start storing and collecting unnecessary things. Mood can often change, apathy, depression sets in, a person loses interest in life, says that he has “healed in this world”.

If alarm bells appear, you must definitely go to a doctor who is available – it may even be a therapist. It will help determine an accurate diagnosis, because dementia mimics a number of diseases: depression, thyroid diseases, lack of certain vitamins, infections and brain tumors. If the doctor does diagnose dementia, he or she will prescribe treatment.

“If dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, then even with mild drug support and adherence to certain recommendations for organizing space and rhythm of life, we can suspend the development of the disease for a long time,” says Ekaterina Uraeva, author of the StopDementia project. – It’s like with any disease: the sooner you identify the problem, the more you can help. Yes, we do not yet know the reversibility in dementia, but development can be halted. The brain is the same organ and can be supported at an early stage.

But the disease can progress, so you can prepare for some of its manifestations in advance in order to make life easier for yourself and your family in the future.

– Discuss with loved ones who and how will take care of the relative. A person with dementia cannot live alone or unattended; help is needed even in the early stages, the Foundation says. – It will be very difficult to cope alone. Therefore, discuss who can help and how: by delivering hot meals once a week, cleaning, money – help can be very different, do not refuse it.

Alexandra Shchetkina advises to facilitate the further solution of legal issues in advance – to issue a power of attorney to represent the interests of your relative in various instances when his condition worsens. This document can be drawn up immediately for many years, for this you need to contact a notary. Also, if a loved one was diagnosed with dementia, then this is the time to take care of all other health: to undergo examination and treat everything that “hands did not reach”: teeth, eyesight, heart. As dementia progresses, treating other conditions can be challenging.

Unfortunately, all of this is just a small part of all the difficulties that families face with dementia.

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