Dementia

Dementia

Dementia is a loss of mental ability memory, judgment, and ability to think. While there are numerous causes of dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the most common. For someone with dementia, life is confusing; it's difficult to remember so many things; personality may change. Medication can help control behavior problems, and some drugs can slow the rate of decline.

Recently Answered

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    AFelipe Jain, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    A combination of factors contribute to dementia caregivers' high levels of stress, including the caregiver burden, or the number of hours per week and the kind of tasks that the caregiver has to perform. These tasks can include dressing the care recipient, changing a diaper, managing financial matters and even doing the taxes if that’s been the care recipient's role.

    Further, the care recipient may have symptoms that can be very disturbing. In addition to memory loss, there can be aggression when the care recipient is in pain or has an infection. There are also symptoms of suspicion like paranoia, or hearing voices. These symptoms can evolve over time through the course of dementia, resulting in caregiver stress.

    Finally, the loss of the relationship with a family member through the chronic course of dementia brings grief. The caregiver no longer enjoys the loving relationship that was once present. Further, the personality of the care recipient often changes, which can be extremely difficult for the caregiver to cope with and to know how to respond to.
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    AFelipe Jain, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    There’s an increased risk of death for dementia caregivers. One study found that it was increased as much as 63% over the course of four years, particularly in caregivers reporting strain and stress pertaining to their caregiving experiences. Interestingly, though, this risk of death was not increased in caregivers who did not report strain.

    Some caregivers were able to manage their role for whatever reason -- perhaps their relative was not sick, perhaps they had a higher innate resilience, or perhaps they learned skills that helped them to cope. If they did not report that they experienced subjective strain from their caregiving role, then they were not at an increased risk of death.

    Clinically speaking, a caregiver may die before his or her relative with dementia. This may be due to the increased stress on the caregiver. Whereas the care recipient doesn’t know what’s going on a lot of the time, the caregivers are acutely aware of the ins and outs, and that does take a toll.
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    AFelipe Jain, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Dementia caregivers are subject to compromised immunity, more days of infectious illness and even disruptions in actual cellular immune responses. This has been shown when doctors have drawn blood from dementia caregivers and exposed that blood to antigens that would trigger an immune response. They found that those immune cells were weaker and didn’t mount as much of a response as non-caregivers' cells.
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    AFelipe Jain, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Dementia caregivers are at about a 50% risk of developing major depression, and that’s actually higher than the risk of depression in cancer caregivers, as well as caregivers for other chronic severe disorders. There’s something very particular about losing a family member, along with his or her identity, over the course of time that really strikes at the heart of the relationship experience.
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    AFelipe Jain, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Dementia caregivers, such as spouses and adult children, provide a needed and valuable service both to the care recipient as well as to society. They can save the healthcare system millions of dollars by continuing to have the person with dementia home in an environment that’s familiar to him or her. In doing so, these caregivers save the country the costs of institutionalization, which average $70,000 to $90,000 per year, making this a huge service to society.
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    ALinda Ercoli, PhD, Psychology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    When dealing with aggression or violent behavior in people with dementia, it's important to always consider safety first. First of all, when you're working with the person, try to get some professional advice on how to manage behavior problems and aggression.

    Always call the doctor if the person you are caring for or your loved one has aggressive behavior. It could mean there is an underlying health problem, such as an infection. It could even be a side effect to medication, especially if it comes on abruptly.

    It may not be a good idea for you to live together with the person you are caring for, although sometimes this is the reality that comes about with caregiving.
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    ALinda Ercoli, PhD, Psychology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Aggression in people with dementia is a range of behaviors. It can be yelling, or it could be something more threatening. It can get severe and include throwing things -- shoes or cups, for instance -- grabbing, pushing, slapping, kicking, spitting and even threatening with weapons or sharp objects.
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    ALinda Ercoli, PhD, Psychology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Aggression and violence are very serious when managing behavioral problems in loved ones with dementia. Aggression and violence are not that uncommon. A study found that within a year of diagnosis, about 16% of people with Alzheimer's disease show violence toward their caregiver.
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    ADavid Merrill, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    One type or class of behavior that’s seen in people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is sociopathic behavior. This degenerative dementia results from brain disease with very significant changes in the brain structure and function. As a result, people who might have been outstanding citizens all their lives suddenly they will do things that just don’t make any sense: hit-and-run traffic accidents, physical assaults, shoplifting or stealing.
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    ADavid Merrill, MD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    In frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the frontal parts of the brain atrophy and the anterior temporal parts of the brain, those by the ears, degenerate. Luckily, FTD is much rarer than, for example, Alzheimer's disease, but when it comes on, it can be devastating. There tends to be earlier onset, and the shift to decline is more rapid than in Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, the average survival of people with FTD is only 3 or 4 years after diagnosis, whereas for people with Alzheimer’s it is about 8 to 10 years after diagnosis.