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Here Are the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Dementia

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. To increase awareness, dispel myths and reduce stigma, we’re answering the most frequently asked questions about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. This is part one of a two part series.

In this Facebook Live video, Jennifer of Simple Local Life and Tamara Ballard of Earth Angels Home Care answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that affect the brain. There are many different types of dementia.

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Dementia is a very general and broad umbrella term. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia. There are over one hundred types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and accounts for about 70 percent of all the dementia cases out there.

How many people live with dementia?

17,000 people in Nova Scotia live with dementia. In Canada, there are about 540,000 Canadians living with dementia. That number is expected to increase to nearly one million Canadians in less than 15 years.

If you’re not affected by dementia right now, there’s a high likelihood that you will be in the future.

What are some of the warning signs of dementia that people should look for when it comes to determining if a loved one or a family member might be struggling with dementia?

Dementia is not just memory loss. There are ten warning signs that you should be aware of. One of those signs may be problems with language. There may be a change in your ability to do familiar tasks that you've done all your life.  There may be impaired judgment. A person’s executive function may not be the same, for example, you might not be able to dial numbers on a phone. There may be changes in your behavior and personality. There are a multitude of things to look for. It's not just memory loss.

Is dementia a normal part of aging?

No. Dementia is not a normal part of aging.

The ability of our brain to process information begins to slow down after the age of twenty-five. By the time you’re seventy-five, you’ll be slower to process things and make decisions. You may not be able to recall the name of someone you met six months ago. That’s okay and it’s part of normal aging.

Is dementia hereditary? What causes dementia?

There are many factors that can contribute to a person developing dementia. About 5% of all cases of dementia are called familial where there’s a genetic disposition that runs in the family. The biggest risk factor for developing dementia is not genetics but getting older. Old age is the greatest non-modifiable risk factor that is beyond your control. There are, however, some risk factors that you can control related to your lifestyle that can help decrease your risk. For example, smoking increases your risk of dementia by 45%.  Being active and exercising can be very beneficial. A healthy diet is important. It’s important to control diabetes and cardiovascular related risk factors such as high blood pressure and your cholesterol level. What’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.

How is dementia diagnosed?

A diagnosis of dementia can be difficult to get. There's no one single test that a doctor can do to diagnose dementia. It's a multitude of tests and a process of elimination. You should begin by going to see your family doctor. He or she will take your medical history, they may order a C.T. scan or PET scan, request blood work, and will talk with family members to get your point of view on changes you’ve observed. They may also send you to a specialist depending on the exact symptoms. It’s complex and can take some time to arrive at a diagnosis of dementia.

What role can home care play in helping family members whose loved ones are living with Alzheimer's or dementia?

At Earth Angels Home Care, we specialize in dementia care. We have Certified Dementia Trainers and Coaches and all our caregivers are trained in the Positive Approach to Care hands-on skills and techniques. We’re dedicated to helping our clients lead respectful, independent lifestyles in the comfort and safety of their home. Services include dementia care, respite for family members, companionship, personal care, transportation, meal preparation, housekeeping, and medication reminders.

Do you have a question about dementia that you would like answered? Please comment below!

To learn more about dementia or to book a free, no obligation home care assessment, visit www.earthangelshomecare.ca or call 902-893-3553 in Truro or 902-530-6205 in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

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