What Happens After Being Diagnosed with Dementia?
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a single specific disease, nor is it a normal part of aging. Dementia is a general term for a syndrome that affects one’s ability to think clearly to the extent that it impacts everyday life. Loss of memory, difficulty making decisions, and foggy reasoning are some symptoms that fall under the umbrella of dementia.
Just because you’re forgetful does not mean you have dementia. According to AARP, half of adults believe they will eventually develop dementia, far more than those who will actually be diagnosed with a cognitive disorder. However, because average life expectancies are increasing, the percentage of the population who will develop dementia has more than doubled in recent decades.
In general, dementia is caused by the damage or death of brain cells due to disease or injury. The result is that either the brain cells malfunction or the function that those neurons once served is lost.
There are over 100 different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases of dementia, while vascular dementia is the runner-up, accounting for about 10% of cases.
Who is at Risk for Having Dementia?
Out of the three most common risk factors for getting dementia — older age, genetics, and family history — increasing age is the most significant. This is true for all forms of dementia other than those that are secondary effects of another type of disease or brain injury.
For example, the percentage of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent and well-known type of dementia, increases to a dramatic extent with greater age:
- Age 65 to 74 — 3% of people
- Age 75 to 84 — 17% of people
- Age 85 and older — 32% of people
What Happens After a Dementia or Alzheimer’s Diagnosis?
Dementia is usually diagnosed after those closest to a loved one become aware of memory problems and forms of confusion that interfere with everyday life. Medical testing and psychological evaluation are used in the diagnosis process and can include cognitive and neurological tests and brain scans.
Being diagnosed with dementia is certainly life-changing. Some people may experience an overwhelming array of emotions at first, including fear and profound sadness. Other people react with relief when they learn there is a reason for their symptoms. Once this initial reaction has passed, it’s important to know that a formal diagnosis is the best foundation for living with one’s symptoms and planning for the future.
What to Do if You’re Diagnosed with Dementia
All forms of dementia are progressive, terminal brain disorders, and unfortunately, there is no cure for any type of dementia at this time. But there are positive steps you can take to improve your quality of life or that of a loved one with dementia. During the early stages, it’s critical to make financial and legal plans and arrange for assistance and care in the long term.
According to Alzheimer’s New Jersey, 68% of New Jersey residents say they know someone who has or had Alzheimer’s disease. This means you are never alone in living with dementia or helping a loved one who has it. At Town Square, we’re proud to provide community-based resources and support in addition to our exceptional adult day programming.
How Quickly Does Dementia Progress After Diagnosis?
Each individual is unique, and it’s difficult to predict how rapidly dementia will progress. On average, people live between four and eight years after being diagnosed with dementia, although others will live for up to 20 years.
What Are Signs that Dementia Is Progressing?
In the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, people are forgetful, have difficulty following conversations, and can be moody, but still largely behave as they always have. In other words, in earlier stages, the person you know and love will likely still have all of their familiar traits.
A significant signal that dementia is progressing is a change in the individual’s actual personality or overall behavior — repetitive questions and delusions are common, and people in later stages of dementia can grow suspicious and accusatory towards loved ones. A greater number of physiological symptoms, like loss of appetite and motor skills, can become apparent in later stages, presenting secondary health risks like malnutrition and falling.
How Town Square Helps People Diagnosed with Dementia
Town Square is designed specifically for senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, providing a safe, therapeutic, social, and fun way to spend the day that’s bolstered with our expertise in memory care and our many other forms of support available.
We promote caregiver education, dementia awareness, and early diagnosis, and our programming is beneficial for individuals with dementia from the early stages onwards. We strive to help people with a cognitive disorder and their loved ones live their healthiest, most fulfilling lives while offering joyous and creative adult day programming that stimulates socialization, remembrance, and learning. Contact us today to learn more. We know you’ll want to see our programming in action with a free tour.