How do you get dementia

Dementia - a challenge for relatives

Dementia - an overview

There are many forms of dementia. The most common is the Alzheimer's disease.

With dementia, not only does memory deteriorate, but other abilities as well. For example, people with dementia cannot find their way around their home, misplace things or do not recognize people they know.

Speaking is also often difficult. Patients struggle for words and sentences. "Normal" conversations are hardly possible because the same questions are asked over and over again.

In addition, those affected are sometimes like a different person: They cannot control their emotions, wander around, are suspicious or sad. Many behave aggressively at times.

Most forms of dementia - including Alzheimer's disease - are incurable. But drugs can delay the mental decline in Alzheimer's dementia and enable a longer independent life. Other procedures can also help, for example occupational therapy. What comes into question depends primarily on the form and severity of the disease.

Nevertheless, at some point people with dementia will no longer be able to cope with everyday life on their own. Then they need more help and care.

How can I help?

  • An open approach can create understanding among family and friends. If possible, weigh up with your family member with dementia how much openness is good.
  • Don't try to take everything away from someone with dementia. Let him do little things by himself, like peeling vegetables or getting dressed. This can help to maintain existing skills. Allow time for this.
  • Many people with dementia can easily remember things or experiences that happened a long time ago. You can bring back memories with photos, souvenirs, music, familiar smells or excursions.
  • Living at home is also possible with dementia. It is important to adapt the apartment to the new needs, for example with smoke detectors, lots of light or fuses on the stove. In addition, you should eliminate potential stumbling blocks. You should keep documents such as passports in a safe place. GPS tracking devices can help with orientation problems.
  • Maintain eye contact during conversations. Use short, simple sentences. Be patient even if you have to answer the same questions over and over again. Perhaps you can also communicate through touch.
  • Outbursts of anger and verbal abuse are often unbearable. Even if it's difficult, try not to take it personally. You help the other person by creating a distraction and not arguing.
    If possible, you can take part in training for loved ones. There you will find out how you can deal with difficult behavior and mental abnormalities. There are indications that such training can improve the situation of the person suffering from dementia.
  • People with dementia often cannot distinguish between day and night. Sleep disorders are the result. Offer the affected family member enough activity each day. This can improve the day-night rhythm. Light therapy, on the other hand, does not help here: So far, there is insufficient evidence of its effectiveness.
  • People with dementia are often neither hungry nor thirsty. Experts recommend arranging meals nicely for the person concerned, for example with a set, shared table. Good persuasion and praise can also encourage sick people to eat.
  • It is helpful if you keep an eye on the treatment. For example, you can look out for medication side effects, pain, or signs of other illnesses.
  • Consider early on with the sick person how to proceed if he or she can no longer decide for himself. One can take precaution with a living will and a power of attorney.

What you can do for yourself

  • Find out about dementia as well as financial benefits and your rights as a family carer. Information on this can be found below under "Methodology and Sources".
  • You can get help with questions and advice, for example, from care funds, care support points, welfare associations, consumer centers or social and health authorities.
  • You can turn to family members and support groups. They advise and often offer courses for relatives. You can also exchange ideas with others and address concerns.
  • Caring for someone with dementia can leave you feeling overwhelmed. For example, many relatives do without things that are dear to them, such as friendships or hobbies. It may seem selfish to you that you are enjoying yourself while the other is in need of your support. But nobody is helped if you don't take care of yourself. Then you lack the strength to take care of the sick family member.
  • Let us help you. For example, you can accept offers to talk to or support from other relatives, friends or volunteers.
  • If you need more support with care or a break, outpatient care services can take the pressure off you. It is possible that offers such as care groups, care shared apartments, preventive care, day care or short-term care may also be considered.

Is Dementia Hereditary?

Dementia can have many causes. Disease genes rarely play a role. In Alzheimer's dementia, fewer than 5 out of 100 diseases are hereditary.

If there is a suspicion of hereditary dementia, doctors should offer you genetic counseling. There you can find detailed information.

March 2018, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians