A Terminal Disease

Dementia is a terminal disease and one of the leading causes of death in the United States.  We don't like to think of it that way; but it is terminal.  Dementia is the set of symptoms we witness and the patient experiences as the brain slowly dies.  Dementia is a long and irreversible brain death.

In the very early stages of dementia, the changes seem minor and may go easily overlooked.  The patient may have a little more difficulty driving, finding their keys and remembering appointments.  They may be more likely to get into interpersonal conflict.  The friends and family around them may make allowances for these changes and pick up extra work without realizing what is going on at the time.

As the brain changes and the patient moves deeper into dementia, the changes observed and experienced are more noticeable.  The patient begins forgetting events they have just experienced such as Lyn recently forgetting that she and Mom had just filled up the car with gas.  Complex tasks become more difficult and the patient becomes more moody and withdrawn.

Bit by bit, the damage being done to the patient's brain will cause more memory loss and less interaction with their environment.  The skills needed to tend to their own daily needs will be lost.  The patient will require assistance with personal hygiene and even eating as they may begin to struggle with swallowing. The ability to recognize those around them and their environments will also be lost.

For many, it is this last stage of dementia that is thought of when the topic is considered or discussed.  In fact, this stage is years into the disease.  The brain death that has been occurring has impacted every aspect of the patient's life irreparably.  At this point, it is only a matter of time before physical death occurs as well.

Given that dementia is terminal, the question becomes how to respond to the patient's failing body?

Additional Information Source:
Seven Stages of Alzheimer's


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