“I’m not hungry.” she utters. Little does she realize, she’s not eaten in three days. Her face looks inquisitive but her eyes seem blank. Dementia is slowly settling in.
Dementia is a progressive neurological disease denoted by significant cognitive decline (2015). It is characterized by impairment of memory, communicative language, reasoning, and judgement. The hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected, and this is why memory issues are key characteristics of the disease (2015). Issues such as depression, thyroid issues, alcoholism, or vitamin deficiencies exacerbate the disease.
She had lost her dog, her son, and her house within 3 years. It was a devastating loss and a significant change in her reality. We had all believed she was as fit and mentally stable as can be. There were no abrupt changes in personality, no issues with memory, and certainly no decline in physical capabilities. With time, It seemed that the more she worried over her losses, the more she forgot and the more she withdrew herself.
After a couple of MRI’s, memory test, and family histories, it was determined that she has dementia. None of the family was quite aware of what that meant, nor were we aware of what the implications were. What would happen to her in the future? What would change about her? How would we take care of her? We were reassured on how to keep her in good shape and good standing. As it turns out, “Use it or lose it” means something in cognitive neuroloscience. In order to keep her brain functioning we were advised to engage her in activites. The more cognitively challenging, the better we were told.
Ever since her diagnosis, we have been fighting a battle with keeping her engaged. Crossword puzzles and word searches no longer hold her interest. We continue to go on daily walks and ask her questions to keep her recall. So far, those have been our only resources. Luckily, she’s drinking ensure and taking vitamins. Any opportunity that I can, I attempt to improve her mood and restore a bit of familiar happiness.
It is very underestimated just how affective depression is in reducing our mental states. Cognitive decline can induce or exacerbate depression, but it can also work in the reverse order. Professor of Neuropsychology at Rush University, Dr. Robert Wilson states that these subtle changes in behavior can actually be early predictive symptoms of the disease (Bowers, 2014). It is imperative to treat depression to prevent the development or progression of cognitive decline in senior citizens. Doing so can implicate an improvement in the prognosis of the disease.
Bowers, Elizabeth. (2014, October). Depression as a Risk Factor for Dementia. Everyday Health, retrieved from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/depression-risk-factor-dementia/
(2015). What is Dementia? Alzheimers Association, retrieved from: http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp