Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

(Posted January 22nd 2018 @ 9:45 AM by: Melody Reever)

What is dementia?

A chronic or persistent disorder marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. It can be caused by disease or injury.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Progressive mental degeneration that can occur in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia.

What are the symptoms?

Short-term memory loss, inability to focus and pay attention, impaired reasoning and judgment, and visual perception, to name a few.

Are dementia and Alzheimer’s disease the same thing?

No. Dementia is not a disease. It is the clinical presentation or "symptoms" of a disease. Dementia can be related to blood flow, vitamin deficiency, or it can be caused by another disease such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, or other health problems. Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disorder in which brain cells die.

With Alzheimer’s disease how long is the person affected?

The time varies. Many have it for a few years before they are diagnosed.

Is everyone the same?

No. Speaking from experience, we realized my dad had it for about three years prior to his diagnosis, and he lived with the disease for fourteen years. My mother went to be with the Lord less than five years after her diagnosis. Their symptoms and graduating stages were totally different.

Is there anything I can do from a medical standpoint?

Yes, talk to your doctor. There are many new medications that slow down the process and help keep the patient calm.

What should churches do to support them, as well as their family?

Call the caregiver and just listen. Stop by for a scheduled visit; caregivers are lonely. Offer to sit with the person with Alzheimer’s so the caregiver can go for a walk. Help keep their independence as long as possible by alerting the ushers and several other members, and be watchful if they leave the sanctuary. Many times, someone sat and conversed with my dad, giving my mother time to socialize with other ladies. As the disease progresses, make sure they sit between familiar people. Family faces are helpful in diffusing distracting outbursts. New situations are frightening.

What should churches never do?

Make a scene or laugh at an outburst or disruption; the family may feel they are a hindrance and stop attending. Never try to handle the person yourself; always get a familiar person to remedy a situation. Fear is a great factor of this disease. Never treat them any differently than you did before. Shake their hand, give a smile, and make small conversation. Listen to their reply, even if it doesn't make sense. It does to them and they will bless you with a smile in return.

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