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Dementia

Intro

A person affected with dementia may not be aware he or she has a problem. Most people with dementia are brought to medical attention by a caring relative or friend. Any of the following warrant a visit to the person's health care provider.

  • Marked loss of short-term memory
  • Behavior or personality changes
  • Inappropriate or uncharacteristic behavior
  • Depressed mood
  • Marked mood swings
  • Inability to carry out daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, feeding, using the toilet, or household chores
  • Carelessness in personal hygiene
  • Persistent word-finding difficulties
  • Persistent or frequent poor judgment
  • Persistent or frequent confusion or disorientation, especially in familiar situations
  • Inability to manage personal finances

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Self-Care at Home

Many individuals with dementia in the early and intermediate stages are able to live independently.
With regular checks by a local relative or friend, they are able to live without constant supervision.
Those who have difficulty with activities of daily living require at least part-time help from a family caregiver or home health aide.
Visiting nurses can make sure that these individuals take their medications as directed.
Housekeeping help is available for those who cannot keep up with household chores.
Other affected individuals require closer supervision or more constant assistance.
Round-the-clock help in the home is available, but it is too expensive for many.
Individuals who require this level of assistance may need to move from their home to the home of a family caregiver or to an assisted-living facility.
Many families prefer these options because they give the individual the greatest possible independence and quality of life.
For individuals who are able to remain at home or to retain some degree of independent living, maintaining a familiar and safe environment is important.
The individual must be comfortable and safe if he or she is to continue to function independently.
Minor modifications of the home may be needed. Most important is to prevent falls and accidents. Getting rid of area rugs and putting grab bars in the shower and mats in the tub are easy important steps to make the environment safe. Sometimes, disabling the stove or using child proof knobs may be necessary to prevent cooking accidents.
The balance between safety and independence must be assessed often. If necessary, changes must be made to keep the individual safe.
Individuals with dementia should remain physically, mentally, and socially active.
Daily physical exercise helps the body and mind function and maintains a healthy weight. exercise can be as simple as a daily walk.
The individual should engage in as much mental activity as he or she can handle. Mental activity is believed to slow the progress of some types of dementia. Puzzles, games, reading, and safe hobbies and crafts are good choices.
Social interaction is stimulating and enjoyable for most people with dementia. Most senior centers or community centers have scheduled activities, such as parties and clubs, that are suitable for those with dementia.
A balanced diet  that includes low-fat protein foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy weight and prevent malnutrition and constipation. An individual with dementia should not smoke, both for health and safety reasons.

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