Jan 9, 2023 | Faces of HDGH
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Canada and with an increase in Canada’s aging population, it’s a good time to learn more about dementia and its most common type, Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no cure for Alzheimer-type dementia, awareness and early detection may help slow the progression for you or your loved one so you can continue living independently.In this blog, Louise Arpin, Occupational Therapist, Geriatric Assessment Program (GAP) explains the signs and differences between cognitive aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As with most body parts, the brain typically works less well as we get older. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between cognitive aging and age-associated memory loss from dementia.
Cognitive aging is a natural process that occurs in everyone and happens when the brain works less efficiently due to the aging process. Cognition refers to not just memory, but your overall thinking and reasoning skills, such as attention, mental processing speed, language, insight and inhibition to name a few. Cognitive aging manifests differently in each person, in part due to things like genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors, therefore changes typically tend to be variable and gradual. Most importantly, cognitive aging does not involve extensive neuron (brain cell) loss from disease or serious damage.
In contrast to cognitive aging, dementia is associated with neurons becoming significantly damaged and eventually dying. Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases affecting cognition and behavior which impact one’s ability to carry out activities of daily living. Although age is a significant risk factor, dementia is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia known and affects how you think, feel and act.
Early signs of dementia might be:
The effects of Alzheimer’s disease include:
Some signs and symptoms that should not be assumed as “normal aging” are:
It is very important to consult a health care practitioner if you notice any of the above to rule out reversible and treatable causes. While dementia is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease - meaning brain function steadily becomes worse as time goes on - early detection can help minimize symptoms, aid in obtaining suitable supports and enable you or your loved one to make appropriate changes and plans to ultimately maintain safety and lead a better quality of life.
GAP is a program at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare that provides in-home comprehensive assessment, recommendations, consultation, caregiver education and support. This includes identifying, monitoring and managing dementia to help optimize the health, function and independence of seniors with complex health concerns.
Throughout the assessment and consultation process we aim to include caregivers of our clients as they know them best. The healthcare team works together to address health issues such as forgetfulness, confusion, medication concerns, weight loss/gain, walking difficulties/falls, bladder/bowel problems, loss of ability to care for oneself, caregiver stress, personality/behavior changes, or driving concerns.
If this program is something you or a loved one may benefit from, reach out to your doctor. Referrals to GAP must be made by a physician. For more information, visit www.hdgh.org/geriatricassessmentprogram
About the Author
Louise is a registered occupational therapist since 1994, working in Windsor since 1995. Her experience with the geriatric population has enabled her to gain knowledge in comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA), different types of dementia, and fall and injury prevention. Louise is a certified fitness instructor who enjoys hiking in nature. Her dream is to one day become a skilled gardener and fluent in Italian.
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