What is dementia? It is not part of normal aging! It is a disease! Dementia is more than just forgetfulness. Dementia makes independent life impossible. Dementia is an umbrella term that includes many conditions and includes some reversible conditions so it should be checked out carefully.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s. This disease will get worse over time; you cannot stop it. Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease, there is no known cure at this time. Vascular dementia is caused by damage to the blood supply to the nerves in the brain. Alzheimer’s dementia and vascular dementia often co-occur. Lewy Body dementia is the third most common type of dementia. Frederich H. Lewy, M.D., was the neurologists who discovered the abnormalities in the brain while working in the laboratory of Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Lewy Body dementia was named after Dr. Lewy. A person living with Lewy Body dementia tends to have problems with movement, they may fall and tend to have problems with stiffness. They may have a hunched posture and shuffle when walking. Frontal Temporal dementia you will notice behavior problems and poor impulse control. Usually a person will have difficulty with word finding and have rapid changes in feeling and behaviors. It is challenging differentiating the different dementia syndromes.
Common symptoms to most dementias overtime will steal memories, will steal the ability to use language and will steal reasoning and logic and it will steal the ability to care for yourself and move around safely. Over time it will also rob you of relationships and rob you of impulse control. Dementia affects a person’s entire life and their families. I do not wish to overwhelm you but I truly believe knowledge is power.
Teepa Snow is a Dementia Care & Training Specialist. She developed Positive Approach to Care TM. She travels nationally and internationally to help people understand how to approach this terrible disease. She created the GEMSTM. According to Teepa, this model was created to help us see the retained abilities of a person living with dementia. Focusing on what is possible instead of what has been lost allows us to engage the person in an appropriate manner and help them live life well. People, like gemstones, are precious and unique needing different settings and care to show their best characteristics and shine.
A Sapphire is a person that is aging normally, but they are slowing down. They are true to self and their likes and dislikes are the same. They are able to learn with practice.
A Diamond is a person that is clear and sharp; they like familiar things. They may resist change or won’t let things go. They become rigid under pressure. They repeat themselves and it will be hard to integrate new information. They can cover mistakes in social interaction. They become protective and may be territorial.
An Emerald is a person that desires independence; their vocabulary and comprehension is diminishing. Communication is becoming vague. They may neglect personal care routines. They are on the go, but they need guidance and structure. They will have difficulty finding their way to and from places. They may get lost in time.
An Amber is a person that focuses on sensations; they will react to how things look, sound, feel, smell and taste. They live in the moment and they are not socially aware. They have no safety awareness and typically they are very busy. They have difficulty understanding and expressing needs. They need help with task and they may resist. It will be hard to connect with them and they will exhaust caregivers.
A Ruby is a person who retains rhythm and can sing, hum, pray, sway and dance. They can understand expressions and the tone of your voice. They are losing the ability to understand language. Falls are very prevalent and they can only move forward. They will have limited skill in mouth, eyes fingers and feet. Caregivers will have to anticipate unmet needs.
A Pearl is a person still there; however, they are hidden in a shell. They know what is familiar and unmet needs may cause distress. They are unable to move by themselves and tend to be in the fetal position, still and quiet. They will have difficult in swallowing. Their primitive reflexes will take over.
This model helps us understand the stages of this disease. However I just touched the surface; I give more detailed information during my workshops. I have additional information about the GEMSTM. You can contact me at Sampson County Dept. of Aging 910-592-4653. Remember the person living with dementia is doing the best they can do. Focus on what they can still do and not on what they can no longer do. Hope you have a “Best Day Ever’.
Lesia Henderson is a Positive Approach to Care Independent Trainer and Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Specialist.