Being told you are suffering from dementia doesn’t always mean a shortened life expectancy. In fact, even Alzheimer’s patients have been known to live years beyond the average of four to eight years. Some patients have lived two decades with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and in reality, there are several factors which could affect everything from the onset of dementia (memory loss) to physiological symptoms. If you have been told by a medical professional that your diagnosis is dementia, it’s time to ask a few more questions.
First Ask About the Underlying Cause
One of the most common misconceptions people have is based on a belief that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are synonymous. The reason for that is because anywhere from 60% to 80% of those suffering from dementia have Alzheimer’s. In any case, dementia is usually irreversible and will almost always result in the need for memory care communities as mental functions decrease. In fact, at this point you may want to begin seriously thinking about searching for residential memory care communities like the two Monarch Communities located in New Rochelle, NY and Jackson Township, NJ. You will want to find a community with vast experience and experts in the field who can guide you and your family as the disease progresses.
Other Causes of Dementia
When it comes to assuming dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s, it’s a logical jump to conclusions based on those percentages mentioned above. However, there are several other reasons for memory loss. The most common causes of memory loss include (but are not limited to):
- Alcohol related dementia
- Parkinson’s dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Medical conditions resembling dementia
Getting the diagnosis right is extremely important because each type of dementia is treated by medications for the underlying cause. For example, vascular dementia is caused by high blood pressure so it would stand to reason that one of the medications used to treat that particular diagnosis would be one or more of a long list of blood pressure medications.
What Is the Prognosis?
Knowing that dementia is almost always irreversible is a very important factor that often leads to asking about the prognosis. Patients want to hear that memory function will be restored and that they can probably go about living independently. Sadly, that may not be possible so, once again, it’s time to seriously think about life going forward. However, it is always good to stay positive because advances in science and medicine are happening almost daily. So then, some diagnoses may hold more hope than others.
Make the Hard Decisions Now
Although you are asked to stay positive, it’s probably wisest to start making some of the hard decisions now. Cognitive memory loss may prevent you from making rational decisions later as dementia progresses, as it almost always does. Therefore, get all your legal issues resolved while you are still of “sound mind and body.” If you have family, maybe they can work through these choices with you. If you have a spiritual director, a person of faith, talk to them as well. Total memory loss from any of the forms of dementia usually doesn’t happen overnight so there is no need to make hasty decisions you will be sorry for later. Take your time but get them done.