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As a caregiver, you have to be creative and work around the symptoms and changes of Dementia, some of which are expected and some you might not expect.
It’s such a strange, confusing, devastating disease. It’s difficult to diagnosis and there is no real treatment. To the outside world, my mother-in-law looks completely normal. In fact, there are some days that she seems normal even to me. As a caregiver, you have to be creative and work around the symptoms and changes. Symptoms like memory loss are expected but there are so many others that you might not realize can be attributed to Dementia.
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Dementia is an umbrella term that includes a multitude of diseases.
While, I could go into the many different types of Dementia, I found the names to be irrelevant. It doesn’t impact our day-to-day lives to know what “type” of Dementia my mother-in-law has. The truth is, there is no cure and very few treatments. The responsibility to ensure a better quality of life with this disease lies with the caregiver.
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The Expected Symptoms of Dementia
- Memory Loss
You expect memory loss with Dementia. It doesn’t always display itself as “who are you?” or “where am i?” however. Short term memory is usually the first to go. This shows itself as forgetting things that happened earlier in the day, keeping track of one’s belongings, any kind of planning, or remembering the steps required to accomplish a task.
- Emotional Issues
A person with Dementia knows they are losing a part of themselves. They are aware of the changes although they may not be able to communicate those changes to you. This can impact their mood and even their personality.While these emotional issues are difficult to handle as a caregiver, it’s important to remember it’s not about you. Sometimes anger, rudeness, or depressed behavior are the only ways they know to cope with the multitude of confusing changes happening in their mind.
- Hallucinations, Paranoia, and Delusion
My grandfather had Dementia and at one point began reliving his experiences from WWII. My mother-in-law gets wrapped up in a book or TV show and believes we are living out those stories. She worries frequently about being in a nursing home. This worry causes her a certain amount of paranoia when we leave the house.
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The unexpected symptoms of Dementia
For a year and a half, I was convinced my mother-in-law had some major bladder issues. Not only was she incontinent but she refused to wear her adult diapers so you can imagine the messes. We saw a urologist regularly. They just kept prescribing more medicines. Finally, I sought a second opinion. It turns out incontinence is a common problem of Dementia patients. They often don’t recognize their need to use the bathroom. Medication was not only unnecessary for my mother-in-law but it was actually causing more problems for her Dementia.
- Verbal Outbursts and Inappropriate Behavior
My mother-in-law is no longer a tactful person. Before my research, I was convinced her favorite past-time was shocking people with her words. She tries to discuss our sex-life with my husband and me. She enjoys telling me about her past sexual encounters. My friends are told to “enjoy” their spouse because she certainly did. She has no verbal filter, blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind regardless of the situation.
Weekly it seems I am trying to reset my mother-in-law’s clock. Unless forced, she naps rather than sleeps at night. When her sleep patterns are off, every other symptom becomes so much worse. She wanders around the house at night. She’s constantly hungry. Her memory worsens to the point of me telling her every step of even the simplest tasks, like how to get a glass of water.
- Uncooperative and Resistant
I never thought I would have to fight someone so hard to get them to simply take care of themselves. Everyday I battle some combination of getting my mother-in-law to take a shower, drink water, or wear underwear. These things seem so simple to you and me but to someone with Dementia, it seems scary or even irrational.
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The brutal fact of this disease is that, while advancements are being made, there is no cure or any real treatment for the disease. The best we, as caregivers, can do is learn to live around and work with these symptoms and changes. Give your parent grace in these changes. They are confusing and frightening. They might not remember they had lunch 20 minutes ago but they are aware that parts of their mind is fading away. As always, give yourself grace as you learn how to best care for your parent with Dementia.
Did you like this post? Were there any surprising parents with your parent’s Dementia?
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