Q: Is there difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

A: Dementia is a group of symptoms that effects intellectual and social abilities in someone severely enough that it interferes with their daily living. Some symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgment, and abstract thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia accounting for 60-80% of all cases. Other common forms of dementia include Vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia. Symptoms of dementia can be caused by many conditions like depression and even medication reactions.
It is important to get a complete evaluation if anyone is showing changes in memory or other cognitive abilities. 

Q: How can I tell a difference between what is normal aging and memory impairment?

A: Not all memory complaints are due to Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Some mild forgetfulness, like a senior moment, or temporally misplacing your keys can be a part of normal aging. Some memory problems can be related to other health issues that can be treated.  If you suspect someone’s forgetfulness, or another cognitive ability like decreased reasoning skills, or they’re just not acting like themselves is getting in the way of a normal daily routine it is time to see a doctor.

Q: Where can I go to get tested for Alzheimer’s or dementia?

It takes a thorough diagnosis to determine if memory loss is caused by dementia or another A: condition. A complete and proper evaluation will obtain medical and family history, including psychiatric history and history of cognitive and behavioral changes. A physician will conduct cognitive tests and physical and neurologic exams and a possible request for a brain scan like a MRI. They should also ask family members or a person close to the individual being tested to provide input.  A diagnosis can come from a primary care physician, geriatrician, neurologist or neurophysiologist.  Please know that no one should be told they have nothing to worry about based on a short screening with a handful of questions. If you need help in finding a doctor to conduct an evaluation our staff can refer you to a professional assessment program. (Diagnosing criteria from Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.)

Q: My loved one has all the signs of Alzheimer’s, it is necessary to get a doctor to tell me what I already fairly certain of?

A: Again, not all memory complaints are due to Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. There are many conditions that have the same symptoms of dementia but can be treated or reversed. A proper diagnosis “rules out” all other possible cause of the memory complaints that could be treated. If the diagnosis is dementia, it is important to know which type of dementia because care plans can differ and there are medications on the market that can help with each type of dementia.

Q: Are there any medications that can treat Alzheimer’s or dementia?

A: Currently there are no medications that can cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. There are four FDA approved medications that have been shown to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s for a period of time. Finding the right dosage and combination of medications that is best for your loved one may take some time and close management.

Please note that while these medications can improve quality of life for some Alzheimer’s patients they are not a cure and seem to work the best in patients in the early to mid-stages of the disease. 

Q: What is the best way for families to deal with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

A: The best way to manage Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is a healthy approach of services for the individual with dementia and the caregiver. It is equally important that the caregiver take care of themselves and be healthy so they can provide the best care for their loved one.

There are many services available to individuals with dementia like adult day programs, stimulating activities and medication management. Keeping the individual engaged, active in their life choices and focusing on what they can do instead of what they cannot do will help them function better and have a better quality of life.  Education, support groups and respite care are some of the most important services the caregiver and family can use throughout their journey. Please contact us for more information about our respite services and the free caregiver training and support group. Our staff can also refer you to other resources throughout the community. 

Q: How can I communicate better with my loved one?

A: There are several techniques that help with communication and also managing some challenging behaviors. Some best practices in communicating with someone with dementia are to place more importance on body language and tone of voice than the actual words.  Because of the effects on the brain, individuals with dementia will pick up on body language and tone of voice before they can process the words being used. Individuals with dementia are very sensitive to the environment. For example, if a room is too loud the individual might have increased anxiety which can make it more difficult for them and the caregiver to communicate with each other. Make the room less noisy or more to a different room to lessen the anxiety and noise and make it easier to communicate.  Evaluating and keeping a simple and safe environment will make communication more effective and help manage some challenging behaviors. Please contact the West Center’s caregiver education department to learn more about commutation and behavioral techniques.

Q: How do you know when is it time to stop caregiving?

A: It is important to remember that you will never stop caring for your loved one. No matter where your loved is at, you are still providing them with the best care. There may come a time when your loved one may need more medical or full time attention than you are physically able to provide. You will know when and if that time comes. The question to ask is, “what is the best option for my loved one.” If you would like help talking through some of the emotions, different options and decisions please contact our dedicated and caring staff. The stress and exhaustion of caregiving can cause its own physical, emotional and mental health concerns. If you are experiencing any physical symptoms like chronic pain, heart problems, high blood pressure or anxiety, depression, insomnia, it is imperative that you see your doctor and treat these symptoms before they become irreversible or chronic problems. Learning how to manage stress and taking advantage of the respite services throughout the community will help you be a more effective caregiver. Remember the best way to treat dementia is with a healthy combination of services for the individual with dementia and the caregiver

Q: Do you offer educational programs?

A: Yes, we offer educational programs and trainings for caregivers, health care professionals and the community. Please click here for our calendar of upcoming educational events, locations and times. 

Q:  What is the charge for the classes?

A: All educational programs and trainings are free of charge.

Q: Where are the programs and trainings held?

A: Classes are held at the center and throughout the community. Please click here for our calendar of educational events, locations and times.

Q: I want to attend a class, but I can’t leave my loved alone. Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes, when classes are held at the Center, we offer free respite for your loved through the West Center Day Program. Please contact Jaime Cobb at caregiver@jameslwest.org or 817-877-1199 for more information and/or to pre-arrange care for you loved one.

Q: I would like to have an educational event at my facility, organization, church or group meeting. How do I get an event scheduled?

A: Please contact Jaime Cobb at caregiver@jameslwest.org 817-877-1199 to schedule a time for your group free of charge.