Often associated with old age, and memory loss, dementia has become a highly misunderstood mental health condition for many reasons. Due to the lack of early public education and awareness regarding dementia, many misconceptions have arisen along the way.
The Lien Foundation and Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA)’s ‘All That Remains’ graphic novel is a collection of personal experiences from caregivers of Persons living With Dementia. Through that, we got an insight into the issues they face, the symptoms of dementia, and the improvisations caregivers make to manage the condition of their loved ones. In this article, we’ll be sharing five key tips we got from the comic by James Tan within the novel, titled ‘My Mother’.
Tip 1: Dementia describes a wide range of symptoms caused by degenerative brain diseases
The assumption that dementia is just forgetfulness or memory loss, is untrue. Dementia is a catch-all term that describes a wide range of symptoms caused by degenerative brain diseases. This includes Alzheimer’s, Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, among others. The symptoms presented may vary for different individuals, but these are the common ones:
- Difficulty in planning and performing day-to-day activities (e.g. managing money)
- Memory loss (e.g. misplacing things)
- Changes in mood and behaviour (e.g. withdrawal from hobbies)
- Difficulty in communication (e.g. unable to follow conversations)
- Disorientation (e.g. confused with time)
Tip 2: Dementia is not just being forgetful or a consequence of ‘old age’
While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, it’s not a key factor for diagnosis as there are other symptoms to consider. Dementia is also frequently confused with cognitive decline as a result of ageing, which may be brushed off by loved ones or caregivers unknowingly.
Caused by a progressive intellectual decline, persons living with dementia may struggle in their daily lives, with things such as communicating effectively or going from one place to another.
Tip 3: Persons living with Dementia might perceive things differently and behave unexpectedly
Due to a decline in their neurological function, Persons living with dementia may perceive situations differently and hence have difficulties making decisions or the right judgement call. They might also forget recent events or individuals, which can be overwhelming and cause a lot of confusion and frustration for themselves.
As a result, they might have unexpected reactions to daily activities and act out in confusion.
Tip 4: Dementia can also affect physical health
Cognitive ability is used in almost all of our daily routines. With a decline in memory and judgement, the daily routines of persons living with dementia are affected. This includes forgetting routines, like consumption of meals, medicine, and even the act of showering. These issues may then affect their health and physical well-being, giving rise to conditions like malnutrition, or overeating.
For some, they may also face a higher risk of falling due to a decline in visual perception.
Tip 5: Dementia is a progressive condition
Dementia does not present all its symptoms at once, but the person living with dementia will gradually experience increasing difficulties in cognitive skills and daily activities. The symptoms of dementia may become more apparent when they progress from a mild to an advanced stage.
As there are many types of dementia that present themselves uniquely for each individual, the speed of progression to the next stage varies.
Although there is no known cure for dementia, there are ways to slow down and manage the symptoms. Caregivers can also plan and provide better care for their loved ones with dementia by communicating and engaging them differently.