How is Dementia Diagnosed?


Hello Everybody! I am so glad you are here with me today. I am the Proactive Caregiver and I specialize in educating others on how to be a proactive caregiver as well by empowering you, the caregiver, rather than the care recipient. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you cannot take care of your loved one.


Today I wanted to go a bit deeper into what Dementia is and how our loved ones are diagnosed. Just like the late Maya Angelou said "We do better when we know better" I too was able to do much better by Mom and reduce my own level of stress from the unknown the more I learned. There are two things that made the biggest difference for me - 1) Understanding our Anatomy {the heart and gut in connection to the brain} and 2) Understanding the stages of dementia regardless of the type. Before I get into the details please keep in mind this is strictly based on my personal experience caring for Mom who lives with a mixed Dementia and not at all intended to be medical advice or replacement for seeking care for your loved one.


Have you heard someone say "Oh my loved one doesn't have dementia, they have Alzheimer's" during the conversation about how their loved one is doing? This is the response of many people right now because although Dementia has been around for well over a century it has not been given due process until more recently. Alzheimer's is Dementia. It happens to be the most well-known form of the top 4 out of well over 100 different types. Dementia in itself is not a disease but a loss of mental function in more than two areas. Dementia is far more than simply the loss of memory, but is noticeable because of the loss of memory and other mental abilities that affect daily life. It's rarely the sole cause because it may include a series of symptoms that affect language, judgment, memory, spatial abilities, and visual abilities.


I came to understand the "how" and "why" related to Mom's behaviors or responses once I dug further into her past history which included her own personal health. Before we had any knowledge of her living with Dementia we kept referring to her as being a crazy woman. Wouldn't it be easier to dismiss the erratic behaviors to silly female hormones? Maybe. Since this happens to men as well then it is not so easy to dismiss at all. Nor should we when we can approach life in a proactive way to prevent our loss of functionality. We can prevent our own demise by paying closer attention to our bodies. I have come to an understanding of the mind, body, and soul is one and the same because it is inside of one physical body but each is affected very differently by various factors.


The craziness our family became accustomed to was in part to Mom's Bipolar Manic Depression but after a period of time, we had to face the fact that there was far more happening or no longer happening within her brain. At some point, we had to decipher between Delirium or Dementia? It is possible to have both simultaneously. How they differ is based on their cause such as from alcohol or drug abuse, surgery, infection/fever, medication, or severe/chronic mental illness.


Delirium is a sudden onset of mental confusion as a result of medical or environmental conditions. Whereas, Dementia progresses as there is a loss of brain cells resulting in a decline of day-to-day cognition and functioning. Delirium causes your loved one difficulty or is unable to stay focused or pay attention. In the early stages of Dementia, your loved one is capable of staying focused throughout the day. However, both present with your loved one becoming easily distracted, withdrawn, fluctuating mental status, difficulties communicating, reading, or writing; Both suffer from memory loss and can become disoriented. Paying close attention to what is triggering a change in behavior or loss of function is so important.


During Mom's early stages of living with mixed Dementia, there always seemed to be an event with an explainable or excusable reason for her lack of judgment in coping with life or loss of memory with driving for example. Being able to laugh at ourselves is healthy but when the joke is repeated about how they were once not as silly or "stupid" then it is time to pause for a closer look. Mom's response often was a laugh followed by her saying "I'm so stupid, I can't believe I did that!" Followed with "Oh well, no big deal." We would all laugh rather than stop to think about why she did something or how it was actually possible. What makes sense at the moment may be what we want to see instead of what the behavior might indicate.


Our early indicator was the abundance of denial and overlooked depression. The denial came from all of us not wanting to grasp the gravity of reality so we normalized her moods. Depression led to avoidance of the facts at hand along with each other. We were unable to communicate honestly and openly with each other because the truth was scary. Still is scary, but once I began to take a peek behind the veil the fear of the unknown made sense that Mom was not so crazy after all. Mom was doing the best she could to survive a deteriorating brain. I encourage you to look behind your loved one's vail and begin testing for Dementia sooner than later.





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I hope this gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.


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