It is difficult when you see a member of the family suffer from dementia. There are dramatic changes in behavior and personality in your loved one that it becomes
a struggle to cope with the illness. However, it is increasingly a challenge
when one is suffering from dementia oneself. I can see these changes in a close
relative of mine who was diagnosed with dementia. She is 80 years old. If you
are like her you might not understand what is happening and are afraid of
physical, mental, and practical debilitation that results from having dementia.
There is too much happening and at the same time. It is scary. We show you some
of the things that happen to elderly dementia patients and what to expect.
The most visible change seen in elderly dementia patients are the physical challenges.
As the mind deteriorates, it is harder for the mind to take control of the
normal bodily functions and the activities for daily living. An elderly
dementia patient for example could suffer from incontinence, leakage, and
sudden urges that if you have the illness you may need to wear diapers to
protect from wetting oneself. Bathing and dressing become hard too. An elderly
dementia patient may forget to shower everyday or to change clothes. Or you may
need assistance in bathing and dressing. Elderly dementia patients may forget
to brush one’s teeth every day. You might fall while in the bathroom and injure
yourself. Not only that, an elderly dementia patient forgets to eat healthy and
drink enough water. You do not realize that you are hungry or thirsty. It can
be the opposite, you might overeat and over drink. The mind is lost and cannot
remember these things. As one is cooking, one forgets how to turn the fire on
and off in the stove. Added to that the stomach does not digest normally so
elderly dementia patients choose to not eat at all. Or you can be very hungry
and eat a lot that it is hard to digest. As the memory deteriorates it is not
easy to get out of the house and find your way back during morning or evening
walks. My close relative did not return home at the expected time after an
evening walk. Family trips become something to be afraid of as the surroundings
are unfamiliar. An elderly dementia patient loses track of direction. Sleep
cycles change as well. One can sleep in the day time and be awake in the night
time disturbing everybody else. My close relative is obsessed with cleaning the
bathroom and the kitchen while awake at night or early dawn making noise in the
house and turning it upside down. One has a disoriented and lost look. One
loses sight and hearing.
Then there are the emotional challenges. An elderly dementia patient can become
violent and aggressive. If you have the later stages of dementia you might
bite, kick, punch, hit when touched or when approached. Elderly dementia
patients may argue and fight with loved ones because one does not understand
reality. You become afraid and have hallucinations. For example, you may think
that the shopkeeper is cheating you. You accuse other family members of
stealing. As a result, you start to hoard things. At the same time that an
elderly dementia patient prefers isolation, you may suffer from boredom and
loneliness too. One seeks companionship and connection as a result. But social
skills may be awkward. Talking can be wrong timing or about wrong things or
repeating stories. There is a strong need to chatter about non sense or about
the past. It can be irritating for loved ones to listen to.
Another challenge comes with the practical things like personal safety, finance and
legal, and living an interesting life while suffering from dementia. An elderly
dementia patient can be a danger to oneself and one’s own personal safety and
the safety of others. You might be capable of hurting yourself and hurting
others. My close relative one day suddenly took out the gas connection risking
fire in the house. One gets lost and can get hit by a car or bike while roaming
around outside. One falls in the stairs or slides in the passageways. An
elderly dementia patient can also forget to pay the bills, be responsible for
one’s finances like balancing the checkbook, and keeping track of money. As one
gets older and more forgetful family members of dementia patients realize the
need for legal documents like making a will and a power of attorney.
Despite all these physical, emotional, and practical challenges, an elderly dementia
patient has the right to a quality of life. One has a right to live an
interesting life. Sometimes that becomes difficult in a nuclear family living
in the metropolitan city. Family members go to school and office and are out
the whole day. The household help is too busy with the house chores that full
care and attention cannot be given to the elderly dementia patient.
If you are encountering these challenges or if someone you love is, a care home may offer the perfect solution. A care home
provides a safe and sound surrounding for an elderly dementia patient where one
can have a quality of life and an interesting life. Professional help is
available 24/7 who understands the situation and can help in the transition.