Dementia is a condition in which cognitive function deteriorates beyond the level expected from normal biological ageing. Globally, dementia is one of the leading causes of death and disability among older people. It is the seventh leading cause of death among all illnesses. Often, dementia is misunderstood and stigmatized, which creates obstacles to diagnosis and care.
A person with dementia can feel confused. When they get something wrong they may feel annoyed and angry. They might feel upset with other people too. They may not know they are upset and can’t describe why they feel like that.
Signs and Symptoms
Each person with dementia is affected differently, depending on underlying causes, other health conditions, and cognitive function before becoming ill. The signs and symptoms linked to dementia can be understood in three stages.
Early-stage: the early stage of dementia is often overlooked because the onset is gradual. Common symptoms may include:
- losing track of the time
- becoming lost in familiar places.
Middle stage: as dementia progresses to the middle stage, the signs and symptoms become clearer and may include:
- becoming forgetful of recent events and people’s names
- becoming confused while at home
- having increasing difficulty with communication
- needing help with personal care
- experiencing behaviour changes, including wandering and repeated questioning
Late-stage: the late stage of dementia is one of near-total dependence and inactivity. Memory disturbances are serious and the physical signs and symptoms become more obvious and may include:
- becoming unaware of the time and place
- having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
- having an increasing need for assisted self-care
- having difficulty walking
- experiencing behaviour changes that may escalate and include aggression.
People living with dementia may find it difficult to consume regular, nutritious meals. They may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat or think they have already eaten.
The basic nutrition tips below can help boost the person with dementia’s health and your health as a caregiver, too.
- Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Offer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.
- Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol. Some fat is essential for health — but not all fats are equal. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.
- Cut down on refined sugars. Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt. Most people in the United States consume too much sodium, which affects blood pressure.
The best thing you can do to help someone with dementia is to spend some time with him or her. This can feel difficult. They may have better days and worse days, and you may not know what to expect. However, each person with dementia is different. So talk about your ideas with the people who care for your loved one. Ask what helps to make your them feel happy, safe and calm.