Lifting Loneliness For People Living With Dementia

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Dementia has the power to make those affected feel isolated – but it doesn’t have to. Those living with dementia and their caretakers can turn to Respite Care Charleston for care programming and social support.

Dementia is a group of symptoms related to the loss of cognitive abilities, like memory, decision making and other executive functions.  The most common cause of dementia symptoms is Alzheimer’s disease, but cognitive decline can also stem from other causes like frontotemporal dementia, which often strikes younger people.

The conventional view of dementia usually is of someone with quirky attributes like repetition or confusion and the advanced stage, which requires constant care.

“The reality is, there is this huge gap in between,” said Sara Perry, executive director of Respite Care Charleston.

Lesser-known symptoms can include paranoia, hallucinations, agitation, aggression and a loss of impulse control or empathy – it’s not always a change in memory ability. These symptoms affect the person with dementia and also the one trying to understand, adjust and cope with a changing personality.

“There’s a lot of folks who are managing silently,” said Perry. “We don’t recognize it because it doesn’t fit our preconceived notions.”

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These people and their loved ones will often withdraw from their activities and public outings.

“Many people living with the middle stages of dementia seem to be forgotten,” said Perry, whose nonprofit provides support and services to those living with dementia, including patients and caregivers.

Respite Care Charleston offers patients opportunities for socialization and therapeutic activities such as memory fitness games, outdoor activities and art, while giving their caregivers a brief break from caregiving. Its memory care programs are an affordable group option – also offering scholarships – that allow people with dementia to enjoy socialization and therapeutic activities in a safe, dementia-friendly environment. In addition to the day programs, Respite Care Charleston offers support groups and other opportunities for education, problem-solving and strategizing how to identify, access and employ resources.

It’s often challenging to secure medical testing for someone with symptoms of dementia because they’re unable to recognize the signs in themselves.

“Caregivers may think their loved one is in denial, when they’re actually experiencing anosognosia – another symptom where the brain can’t recognize or understand their symptoms.  It’s like their brains are lying to them,” Perry explained.

When it’s necessary to make lifestyle interventions, Respite Care’s team is there for that, too, with one-on-one consultations and “tips and tricks” for everything from behavioral worries to financial document planning.

Casting a net of support is meaningful to caregivers who manage the symptoms, safety and quality of life of dementia patients. Caregivers sometimes feel as though others do not know what they are going through, especially when their loved one with dementia can appear to function “normally” for short periods of time while with company.

Understanding realities for caregivers and the potential for feeling isolated, Respite Care Charleston offers support groups as a place for learning from other caregivers, sharing laughter and tears, connecting to resources and finding friendship.

For them, it’s about creating more good days – for everyone.

For more information, call 843-647-7405 or visit respitecarecharleston.org.

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