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Dementia is NOT a Normal Part of Aging (Ep# 024)

You've heard people say, "she's doing great, she's old, but she's all there", or "he's 90 and still so sharp". These statements about older adults make the assumption that with aging comes serious cognitive problems like dementia. But these ideas are actually not supported by science and in fact are a direct result of ageism. Ageism is bias and discrimination and stereotypes about age and it affects older adults more than any other age group.


In today's episode, I want to share an important message that dementia is NOT a normal part of aging.


Hello there I am Dr Regina Koepp and this is The Caring for Aging Parents Show. I'm a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist and I specialize with older adults and families. I help you manage the most complicated situations with your aging parents so that you have peace of mind knowing that you are doing everything you can to help your parents live their best lives with out giving up your own life in the process.

So for the best tips on helping you to care for your aging parents, hit the subscribe button and don't forget to hit the bell for new tips every Wednesday. As we get started, I wanted to share with you really important freebie that I made for this episode. It's called Dementia 101: A Beginner's Guide to Dementia Disorders. In it, I define what dementia is and I tell you what it isn't. I describe the phases of dementia and what to do if you're worried that your aging parent might have dementia. I'll link to it in my show notes. So take a minute to download it. It answers some of the most frequently asked questions I get about dementia. All right, let's get started. There is a big myth out there that with age comes dementia and while with age the risk for dementia does increase,

It's important to know that dementia is NOT a normal part of aging. So let me start by telling you what dementia is.


Dementia is a general term that we use to describe a certain type of brain condition that affects cognitive function. Okay? We're getting into some fancy terms here. So cognitive function is a fancy term for how the brain thinks and remembers and processes information, how the brain reasons and uses judgment, how it solves problems and so much more.


Dementia is a neuro degenerative disorder. Neuro is brain, Degenerative, gets worse over time, like to degenerate and disorder, meaning it impairs a person's ability to take care of themselves and manage their life affairs like driving and managing money or working and then also caring for themselves like with grooming and things like that.  Dementia includes progressive memory loss, meaning that memory gets worse over time, but that's not all.

Dementia is NOT only memory loss, it actually has to include other cognitive processes like language. So maybe not being able to hold a conversation or judgment like giving a ton of money to telemarketers when your parent would never have done that in the past. These are just a couple of examples that give you an idea that it's more than just memory. So with dementia, the impairment in cognitive function also makes it so that a person is eventually unable to complete basic tasks like driving a car or managing money or balancing a checkbook. If you'd like to learn more about basic functioning, check out my episode number 11. It's called "knowing activities of daily living will help you care for aging parents". I'll link to it in my show notes. So let me give you some more basic information about dementia.


Dementia is essentially an umbrella term.  And underneath the umbrella are different types of dementia disorders like Alzheimer's Disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontal temporal dementia, and so many other types of dementia disorders, they all fall under the umbrella of dementia. So one of the reasons that Alzheimer's Disease and dementia are often used interchangeably is that Alzheimer's Disease is the most common type of dementia. Actually of all people who are diagnosed with dementia disorders, 60 to 80% of all dementia cases have Alzheimer's disease. Okay. But no matter what type of dementia a person has, all types of dementia affect cognitive ability and eventually a person's ability to care for themselves independently. So all types of dementia are progressive, meaning that they get worse over time. And sadly, there is no cure at this time.


Dementia is a really complex condition and early stages, it actually can be hard for doctors to identify or diagnose it. So we do our best to use brain scans and neuro-psychological testing to identify a dementia disorder. But dementia can only be diagnosed with a hundred percent certainty by doing an autopsy and looking at the brain after a person dies.


It's important to know that dementia is a medical condition. People often confuse it for a mental health condition or personality issues. And indeed, often it comes with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, even hallucinations and delusions. But at its core, dementia is a medical condition. So doctors really need to be involved in caring for a person with dementia. They need to be involved in assessing for it and diagnosing it, and then providing care. So now here's the message that I really want you to hear....

Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging!

Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging!



According to the 2019 Facts and Figures Report published by the Alzheimer's Association, only one in 10 of people, 65 and older have Alzheimer's Disease. That's only 10% of older adults. Hold on. Did I just blow your mind? So I mentioned earlier that the percentage of people with Alzheimer's dementia increases with age... But even when we look at people over 85 still less than 50% have Alzheimer's. So there you have it. The majority of older adults do not have dementia. And dementia is not a normal part of aging.


So why do I want you to know this? Why do I want you to know that dementia is not a normal part of aging? Here's why. When you have concerns about your parents, if you have concerns about their memory, language, how they're problem solving, how they're reasoning, how they're understanding what you're telling them. And if these changes concern you or are getting in the way of their ability to live their life, it's really important to take these changes seriously and to help your aging parents see their doctor. Okay, so sometimes these changes are not related to dementia at all, but they're related to a medical problem that might need to be treated and resolve some of the issues that are going on. Other times these changes might indeed be related to dementia. And the sooner you can move toward a diagnosis and a plan, the more empowered you and your parent will be in living a life with dementia.


So, if you're concerned about someone you love possibly having a dementia disorder, please download my freebie. It's called Dementia 101: A Beginner's Guide To Dementia Disorders. In it, I describe what dementia is. I discuss the difference between normal changes in the brain and dementia. I talk about the different phases of dementia and I break down everything you need to know about the basics as relates to dementia and then what to do if you're concerned. So take a minute and download it now.


And don't forget to hit subscribe and like button so I know to make more videos just like this...and don't forget to share this video with your friends who are caring for their aging parents because nobody should have to do this caregiving thing alone. Lots of love to you and your family. Bye for now.

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