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What is Dementia

Have you ever forgotten where your keys are or the name of an friend you don’t see very often? Forgetfulness can happen at any age, but it is more common in elderly patients. As people get older, they often develop age-related memory impairments. Older people are more prone to forget names and objects than younger people are. The elderly may also develop mild cognitive impairments, meaning they have trouble remembering things, saying what they want to say, and thinking logically.

Dementia is a more serious form of a cognitive impairment. There are different types of dementia, sometimes called senility. Most types affect people in their 50s and older. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which usually affects people age 60 and older.

All types of dementia involve a decline in the ability to think and remember. Eventually, dementia can affect a person’s ability to move and perform bodily functions. In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, people are usually able to continue to take care of themselves with some help from family members. In the middle stage, people with Alzheimer’s often move into long-term care facilities because they need health care staff to help care for them. They slowly lose more of their short-term memories (recent memories), while their long-term memories (memories from childhood) remain. People with late-stage Alzheimer’s become confused about their surroundings, have trouble moving and eating, and are fully dependent on staff to take care of them. They cannot identify who other people are, and they cannot communicate with others.

As a nurse assistant, you will most likely work with patients who have some form of dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. Considering how it would feel to slowly lose your memories and be fully dependent on others for your daily needs is important to do. Patience and kindness will go a long way when caring for patients who have dementia.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners