Dementia taking toll during pandemic, how to spot the signs

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Preliminary reports from the CDC indicate there were at least 42,000 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementia in 2020, than the five-year average.

The pandemic is taking a devastating toll on older Americans.

Now more than ever noticing the early signs and having a plan in place is important.

When trying to spot the early signs of dementia there are a few different things to look for.

What can start as just forgetfulness, could escalate into something more serious.

“They get into a car and they drive somewhere and they don’t remember how to get home,” said Stephanie Crowther, the Director of Memory Care at Woodlands at Hillcrest. “When they also start isolating themselves from people in general because they try very hard to hide that they can’t remember.”

New data from the Alzheimer’s Association shows that during 2020 in Nebraska there were 35,000 people 65 and above who were diagnosed.

Statewide in 2019, 768 people died from Alzheimer’s Disease.

That same study showed almost 20% of Nebraska caregivers to loved ones with dementia reported signs of depression.

“We look for caregiver fatigue,” Crowther said. “The person that we are looking at to be placed, that person can become agitated towards their caregiver. They start exhibiting aggression, they also get anxiety, they also exhibit behaviors like wandering, hoarding, and paranoia.”

Experts say having conversations about dementia with a loved one before things progress is always more beneficial.

As sometimes an unaddressed dementia diagnosis in a loved one could lead to the potential of injury to themselves or you.

“The individual with dementia has become so agitated they lash out and become physically aggressive with the caregiver in some instances,” said Hannah Elliot, the Executive Director of the Woodlands at Hillcrest.

Many times a move to an assisted living facility can bring feelings of guilt to a caregiver.

Something that’s understandable but in some cases a necessary move.

“Someone who is able to appropriately care for an individual when you’re no longer able to, there’s no shame in that,” Elliott said. “There’s no shame in you and I not being able to do knee surgery, there’s no shame in a caregiver not being able to meet those needs anymore.”

The experts also say if you have a loved one with dementia that one of your best resources is to join a support group, for advice and conversations.

Copyright 2021 KOLN. All rights reserved.

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