Dementia is a term used to describe many different types of conditions and symptoms that affect the brain in different ways. Some examples of symptoms are: memory loss, disorientation, confusion, decreased motor function, and reduced abilities to perform normal living activities. Dementia does not just affect the elderly, many young people are also impacted – this is called Younger Onset Dementia. There are around 100 different types of Dementia, some common types include Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy body disease, Frontotemporal dementia, Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease and Korsakoff’s – alcohol related Dementia.
At Alzheimer’s WA we understand dementia to be a human experience not just a biological one. The type of dementia is only one part of the whole picture for the person living with dementia and those close to them. The impacts on the individual’s experience of life are unique and varied.
There is currently no known cure, however there are some drugs available that can alleviate some symptoms of certain types of dementia. Many approaches and supports can also help alleviate the impacts of some symptoms such as, but not restricted to – modifications to the environment, art and music therapies, adjustments to communication, assistive technology and support with daily living activities.
There can be many daily challenges for the person living with dementia and some aspects of the disease may be traumatic for the person. Finding ways that support and alleviate some of these challenges will contribute a great deal to experiencing living life well with dementia. Many people living with a diagnosis of dementia choose to understand their symptoms of the disease as disabilities and therefore only one part of their experience of life. Although the brain is affected by dementia it is still possible to learn, to contribute to the community, to maintain social connections and to do things for yourself.
There are many misconceptions associated with a diagnosis of dementia, many suggesting a quick and hasty decline, drastic changes to a person behaviour and personality, and a life ahead of suffering, however this is not always the case. There is much that can be implemented to retain wellbeing, and as much cognitive functioning for as long as possible. Continuing to participate and actively engage in life can be a key to retaining wellbeing. Although change will occur, life does not have to be over with a diagnosis of dementia.