A fellow caregiver recently asked me, “Is dementia contagious?”. She explained to me that since she has been caring for her mother who is stricken with Alzheimer’s, she believes that she, herself, has become more and more forgetful.
The stressful environment that is experienced by those caring for dementia patients brings on an elevated risk of depression, which can cause dementia. So, in a manner of speaking, yes, you can start assuming the same symptoms of your loved one who is memory-impaired .
Experts speculate that on average, a dementia caregiver provides care for a much longer period of time than other caregivers. This is one of the reasons for the high rate of depression.
Another cause of dementia symptoms is simply being overtired. I learned from the many years of caring for my dad that I could basically get by just napping; not a healthy way to live. Getting a full night’s sleep became virtually hopeless. I was constantly living on the edge of exhaustion.
Most challenges that are presented while tackling the job of caregiving can prove to be both physically and mentally overwhelming; in this lies the danger of developing depression. These demands can become more difficult with each passing day bringing along additional symptoms of stress such as: chronic anxiety, apathy, fatigue, frustration and being short tempered. These symptoms in themselves can provide triggers for the onset of dementia.
It’s one thing if you cannot keep track of your keys. This is most likely a sign that you’re in desperate need of some respite. But, if you can no longer remember what the keys are for, it may be time to have a discussion about the matter with your doctor.
Here are a few signs you should be on the watch for:
• Difficulty remembering things much more often than before.
• Problems with learning new things.
• Difficulty remembering how to do things you have done many times before.
• Repeating yourself during the same conversation.
• Trouble making decisions or handling money.
• Unable to keep track of what has happened during a given day.
Taking care of a person with dementia is an act of selfless-love and an extremely important job, but, make sure that you, as a caregiver, take care of your own well-being.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a type of undertaking that, toward the end, becomes impossible to do alone. Please learn early on to ask for help.
Dementia that develops from depression is reversible; this is why it’s so important to discuss these fears with someone in the medical profession. Just the fact that you’re worried about it should hopefully be enough to give you the courage to initiate the conversation.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc, is the author of Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness, Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors and co- author of While I Still Can and The After effects of Caregiving. He is a weekly columnist of Common Sense Caregiving and a national speaker on dementia care.