According to Alzheimers.net, in 2014, there were 22,000 people in New Hampshire who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, this number is expected to grow by 45.5%. There are 1.34 million people in New Hampshire, which means that 1.64% of them have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. However, these statistics only tell us about the people who have officially been diagnosed. Many people live with symptoms for years without seeking help, and there are many other diseases in addition to Alzheimer’s disease that cause dementia-related symptoms. Strokes can cause vascular dementia, and Fronto-Temporal dementia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Lewy Body, and Pick’s diseases are just a few of the possibly hundreds of other reasons that a person may exhibit signs of dementia.
This makes the percentage of New Hampshire residents living with some sort of dementia far greater than the 1.64% who have been officially diagnosed. It is likely that many residents of New Hampshire have been affected in some way by a dementia-related disease, either because they have a family member or friend with a disease, or they have a friend or colleague caregiving for someone with one of these diseases. It is time to try to understand our neighbors and do away with the stigma that may keep people from seeking the help they need.
A person with a dementia-related disease may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms, depending on what type of disease they have and where they are in the disease process:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in communication, especially finding the right words to communicate
- Reduced ability to organize, plan, reason, or solve problems
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
- Loss of or reduced visual perception
- Changes in personality and behavior
- Mood swings
Getting a diagnosis of dementia can be frightening, after all, there is no cure for any of the diseases involved and a lot of the medications used are ineffective. However, there are many things a person can do to continue living a good quality of life. Most importantly, seek help. There are groups available to help you and your loved one’s cope with the challenges of everyday life. There are services available to support you in your home. And, when the time comes to move into a supportive living environment, the old “nursing home” is long gone. Today people needing assistance can live in an assisted living community where they are supported by people who understand their needs and treat them with the utmost dignity and respect. The best thing that any of us can do is face these diseases head-on, learn all we can about the disease and how to help our family, friends, and neighbors continue to live a life worth living, even if it is not the life they had planned.