A diagnosis of dementia has a great impact on the family. After receiving it, it is important to learn to care for both the affected family member and oneself

A health worker with a mask holds the hand of a resident of an Alzheimer’s home in Pitkovice, Czech Republic. EFE/EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

Some 50 million people live with a diagnosis of dementia in the world and every year about 10 million new cases are registered, underlines the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, this entity forecasts that there will be 82 million people with dementia in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.

It is the elderly who mainly suffer from dementia. However, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging because “many older adults live their entire lives without presenting dementia”, emphasize specialists from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alzheimer’s, the most common dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia diagnosis, accounting for 60-70% of cases. However, there are more types of dementia such as vascular dementia or Lewy body dementia, among others.

“Dementia affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning ability, language and judgment. Impairment of cognitive function is often accompanied, and sometimes preceded, by impairment of emotional control, social behavior, or motivation.

World Health Organization

In this sense, it specifies that the first symptoms are usually the tendency to forget things, the loss of the notion of time and spatial dislocation, even in familiar places.

Nicolasa Santiago, a 74-year-old Zapotec indigenous woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s. EFE/ Daniel Ricardez

Nowadays There is no treatment that can cure dementia or reverse its progression. However, there are different interventions to facilitate the day-to-day life of people with dementia, which is why it is important to diagnose it early.

“Receiving a diagnosis of dementia is news that causes a great impact on the affected family. A wide variety of emotions and reactions can arise; Among the first, there is usually concern and insecurity due to ignorance of the new situation that arises. There may also be feelings of anguish at the thought that they will not be able to cope,” he says. Beatriz Canseco de la Rosa, psychologist at Accountants Room Center.

“On some occasions, especially when there is an early diagnosis, confusion and confusion appear, and they even minimize the symptoms and deny the seriousness of the problem. On the other hand, in others, the family feels calm when putting a name to what happens to their relative”.

Add the psychologist.

The specialist emphasizes that in order to assume the diagnosis it is necessary to know the disease. This involves learning about your symptoms and how they are progressing.

“It can be very helpful to contact people who are going through the same situation, as well as going to an association to learn strategies that help manage daily situations in relation to living together and caring for the affected family member,” he says.

Changes in routines, roles and some tips

Likewise, Canseco emphasizes that the new situation implies changes in routines, roles and functions within the family environment.

“The family will have to face the changes and alterations in the behavior and reactions of the affected loved one, in addition to modifying the care and communication guidelines throughout the process.”

Expresses the expert Canseco de la Rosa.

In this sense, the psychologist reminds that the progressive evolution of the disease will worsen the symptoms and the person will require more attention and dedication.

As he explains, for the family, “The most difficult changes to accept are those related to behavior and personality, as well as delusional reactions and behaviors due to episodes of memory loss. In addition, it is difficult to face that the family member will lose their faculties and abilities, ceasing to be themselves”, he adds.

old people in the park diagnosed dementia
Stock image of old people in a park. EFE/JL Cereijido

For all this, the psychologist offers some advice for caregivers of a person diagnosed with dementia.

1. Try to preserve the autonomy of the affected person in the activities that he is still capable of carrying out on his own.

“You have to adapt the necessary help to their limitations and avoid overprotective attitudes. For this, it is beneficial to establish a daily routine, simplify the instructions and enable the spaces”, he points out.

2. Stimulate the person with dementia with cognitive and leisure activities that are within their reach.

3. Involve the affected family member in the conversations and keep them informed of events to avoid isolation and disconnection with the environment.

“You must not speak for him or speak of him as if he were not present,” he warns.

4. Family members must adopt a flexible, patient and warm attitude towards the affected person.

“When they address the patient, they should use simple language with short sentences and easy-to-understand questions. They have to repeat the information with the same words and make use of non-verbal communication”, he details.

5. In addition, it is very important that family members know how to take care of themselves.

To do this, the expert recalls that there must be unity and cooperation between them.

“They have to be able to ask for help, seek support or delegate some functions among family members. It is necessary that they give themselves time, take care of their rest and preserve their social relationships”.

Concludes Beatriz Canseco de la Rosa.

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