Dementia Sucks

If you have a family member that suffers from some form of dementia, you’ll know that the title of this blog is extremely accurate – dementia really sucks for everyone involved.

My grandmother began showing signs of dementia about 10 years ago. My sister and I would go to her house every weekend, and she began to have a hard time telling us apart and mixing up our names. This was very odd, but we didn’t think much about it at the time. It has now progressed to the point where she does not recognize anyone in the family, including my dad – her son.

How does this happen to someone who used to be so witty and sharp-minded? I understand there is severe neurological deterioration occurring in her brain that is causing the dementia, but there is something so unsettling about not being recognizable to someone you care about so much. I’m sure this feeling is much worse for my dad, but I also cannot imagine my grandma’s perspective – seeing a face you know you should be able to identify, but not being able to do so. The thought of that is so horrifying I would not wish it upon anyone.

I think everyone can agree on how terrible dementia is, but many may not be aware of how many different types of dementia there are. To be exact, there are ten different things that could be causing symptoms of dementia:

  1. Alzheimer’s Dementia
  2. Vascular Dementia
  3. Parkinson’s Dementia
  4. Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  5. Huntington’s Disease
  6. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  7. Frontotemporal Dementia
  8. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
  9. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
  10. Mixed Dementia

While it is daunting to know there are so many different forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease is by far the most common. The disease is thought to be caused by certain proteins accumulating in the brain and sticking together to form toxic clumps. These clumps, or aggregations, lead to damage of healthy brain tissue, resulting in cognitive decline, confusion, and memory impairment.

Alzheimer’s Disease comes with many terrible symptoms. Contrary to what many people may think, however, Alzheimer’s is not actually considered a cause of death. Rather, people suffering from Alzheimer’s pass from other complications that are not properly cared for. Severe Alzheimer’s Disease can hinder a person’s ability to take care of themselves. Weight loss can occur from not remembering to eat or drink, which can lead to dehydration and organ failure. Bed ridden patients may pass from out-of-control infections of pressure ulcers. Alzheimer’s sufferers may also experience difficulties in swallowing. This can result in small food particles being trapped in the airways, likely progressing into pneumonia.

Sadly, the only medications that are really being used are only directed towards treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. The exact causes and neurochemical pathways remain elusive, making it very difficult to prevent and treat the actual disease. For as long as we have known about Alzheimer’s, little progress has been made in uncovering its mysteries. This is an extremely hopeless feeling, and the statement above still holds too true – dementia sucks.