Current data indicates that currently there are 62,000 individuals with dementia in New Zealand. This number is estimated to grow to 170,000 by 2050.
What is it?
Dementia is a broad term that describes an array of progressive neurological conditions which impact the brain. Of all forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Some individuals can have several types at once. Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will uniquely experience dementia.
The four main types of dementia are
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Lewy bodies dementia
Dementia impacts men and women, though they are pre-disposed towards different forms. Women most commonly develop Alzheimer’s, and men more often develop vascular dementia.
Once dementia is diagnosed, it is important that the person receives appropriate advice, support, and treatment to help plan their life moving forward.
The progression of dementia
Dementia progresses gradually and can last many years. Some individuals may spend 20 years with this condition. Knowing the changes that may come with dementia can be helpful, both for the person with dementia and their loved ones.
A broad overview of the stages of dementia
In the initial stages, symptoms are milder. While suffering from forgetfulness, most people can still live independently and continue with standard routines like driving and working. In these earlier stages, assistance tools such as memory aids, medication organisers, and simplified phones are helpful additions to a person’s routine.
This is usually the most lengthy stage and typically lasts for many years. Symptoms such as forgetting things, rapid mood changes and feeling confused may become more noticeable. In this stage, people may need more help and support with day-to-day routines. At this stage, assistance tools like safety aids and fall prevention might be required.
In the later stage of dementia, the person may communicate far less and seem unfocused. Frequently people at this stage of their dementia progression are talked of as being “in a world of their own”. Many people with late-stage dementia will require supervision and care around the clock. Due to their needs, people often move into a care home or have constant supervision and help at home.
Personality changes and increased confusion are expected, which can be difficult for loved ones to deal with. Despite this, people in the later stages of dementia will sometimes still recognise close friends and family. The ending stages of dementia are often called “very severe decline” but not everyone reaches this point because many people pass away from other medical conditions. In circumstances where a person reaches this point, what matters is ensuring access to the best support to keep the person comfortable and happy. Sometimes additional tools such as dementia aids and sensory aids give stability stimulation to the user.
Medical experts have thoroughly researched the stages of dementia. Every person’s experience with dementia is different. For instance, some people go gradually through some stages and faster through others. It is better to pay attention to what you can do now and plan your future so that you and those around you can be more prepared for the changes that come with dementia.
Living with dementia
Once a person has received a dementia diagnosis, steps must be taken to maintain quality of life. For each individual, this may differ. Sometimes, it is mostly about keeping routines, socialising with loved ones, and indulging in hobbies. With effective support, people living with dementia can still stay connected with loved ones and enjoy safe and healthy lives. If you are a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, know it’s important to take steps to give them a meaningful life.