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The Reality of Dementia and Alzheimers

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Miss Mary & Pam

I think everyone knows their own Miss Mary. She's so full of like and always knows the latest bacchanal or juicy piece of gossip. As we Trinidadians say, “The pot is always bubbling.” From pelau, to chicken foot souse, to Christmas time when the ham, pastelles and fruit cake start making an appearance.

Every Saturday two very good friends Pam and Miss Mary would meet for what they like to call 'girl time.' Apart from being very good friends, their children grew up together and their husbands also became very close. This is the perfect story of persons that were once strangers becoming tight-knit enough to be family.

One day, Pam gets a call from Miss Mary saying that she was diagnosed with early Dementia. This somber mood puts the ladies in a different frame of mind. Not knowing fully what the future holds for Miss Mary was a frightening thought. Would the Dementia put an end to this friendship? Would Miss Mary still be able to perform her daily functions? Will Miss Mary forget Pam and the beautiful friendship they share?

The Saturday routines continued for about two months after. Then, the calls began. Pam got the call from Miss Mary's daughter, June saying that she's not feeling well today. This continued for six consecutive Saturdays.

Not only was Miss Mary battling with her early Dementia, but Pam herself was faced with a level of loneliness; her children became very concerned for the well being of both ladies. Fortunately, the children were also very close and came up with a great solution- organising for both women to meet. The first Saturday went very well and once again, the house was filled with laughter, good times and good memories. However, Miss Mary was on medication that made her a bit drowsy making the time spent together shorter than usual. Pam wanted to support her friend so, she stayed with her while she slept for two hours. When she got up, the ladies were at it again.

Pam took the time to learn about Dementia and what should be expected. She was determined that no matter what, she was not going to lose her friendship or let Miss Mary go through this alone.

A few years went by and one unfortunate night, Pam fell and damaged her hip. Pam needed surgery to correct the injury and was then subjected to therapy which helped, but it did not allow for full mobility.

But again, the children stepped in and came up with another brilliant idea. They decided that the roles were reversed and Miss Mary would now go to see Pam. The children took care of the cooking, while the ladies sat in the porch. Sometimes they spoke and other times they just sat in silence and enjoyed each other's company.

The comfort, togetherness and the bond that was forged from so many years ago, allows for words to sometimes go unspoken.

Alzheimer's and Dementia are still a mystery in many ways. This is why the two similar diseases are often mixed up in everyday conversation and understanding. According to the National Institute of Aging (NIA), Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities. Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that controls thought, memory and language.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory. It is a term that is often associated with the cognitive decline of aging. However, issues other than Alzheimer's can cause Dementia. Other common causes of dementia are Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

According to the Center for Diseases Control, Alzheimer's disease is a common cause of dementia resulting in as many as 50 percent to 70 percent of all dementia cases. In fact, Alzheimer's is a very specific form of dementia.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's include:

- Impaired thought

- Impaired speech

- Confusion

Doctors use a variety of screenings to determine the cause of dementia including blood tests, mental status evaluations and brain scans.

How are They Different?

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone who has a sore throat with an unknown cause. It may be allergies, strep throat, or a common cold. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what specifically is causing those symptoms.

Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimer's is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.

Let me know when you have tried these little tips… How did the doctor's visit go?

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