Watch Out For Concurrent Conditions

If you’re the care partner for someone in the early stages of dementia, keep your eyes open for other health conditions, advises Schulz. Too often symptoms of depression and other ailments get attributed to the dementia itself. “People think, ‘Well, mom seems very sad, but wouldn’t you be sad if you had dementia?’” she explains.

In fact, the most common health problems for people who’ve been newly diagnosed with AD or dementia are psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety, says Dr. Ron Keren, a geriatric psychiatrist and assistant professor with the University of Toronto. “It may be part and parcel of the disease,” he says, “or it may be because people have insight and they react and grieve for their perceived loss of ability.”

If you’re uncertain whether your relative or friend’s symptoms are simply a result of his AD, or whether they may indicate the presence of depression as well, check out the Mayo Clinic’s post, Alzheimer’s or Depression: Could it be both?.

People with dementia are prone to other medical conditions as well. One study found an average of eight other health problems (or "co-morbid conditions" in medi-speak) – from femur fractures to cardiovascular disease and psychiatric ailments. In fact, the lower a patient’s score on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the higher the number of co-morbidities.

To complicate matters, people with AD may have trouble tracking or remembering symptoms, or have difficulty expressing their concerns to the doctor. “Once a diagnosis [of dementia] has been made, it’s a pretty established 'best practice' for doctors to listen to family members,” says Schulz.

“That’s not discounting the patient’s experience, but if there’s some cognitive impairment, their insight and their problem-solving abilities are going to be most likely somewhat impaired.”

Health Hotlines

Quebec offers a 24-hour Health Hotline: 811

Almost every province has a health hotline you can call when a medical emergency arises:

Alberta: 1-866-408-5465 www.albertahealthservices.ca/services.asp?pid=service&rid=1026103

British Columbia: Click on your local Home and Community Care Office (all listed here www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=25FAA716D478452886CF64E7D5FE7F08&title=How%20to%20Arrange%20for%20Care) for pertinent phone numbers.

Manitoba: 1-888-315-9257

Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-888-709-2929

Nova Scotia: http://caregiversns.org/resources/adult-day-programs/

Ontario: 1-866-797-0000

Outside of Toronto http://www.ocsa.on.ca/adult-day.html;

Southwest region http://www.southwesthealthline.ca/aboutourregion.aspx;

Halton Region http://halton.ca/cms/One.aspx?portalId=8310&pageId=10649;

Niagara Region http://www.niagararegion.ca/living/seniors/programs/adult-day-service.aspx;

Haldimand-Norfolk County http://www.seniorsupport.ca/adult-day-program.html;

Peel Region http://www.peelregion.ca/ltc/programs/adult-day.htm;

Greater Toronto area http://www.centralhealthline.ca/listServices.aspx?id=10347

 


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Camilla Cornell

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