It seems that with each passing day I encounter someone whose life is being affected by some form of dementia. Most often these encounters involve individuals who are struggling with the baffling changes he/she has begun observing in a loved one and is unsure how to proceed with securing an accurate diagnosis. At other times, these encounters involve another caregiver struggling to make a whole host of life-altering decisions with high-stakes consequences -- not only for their ill loved one but also for their own financial future as well. The more I openly share that I am a caregiver to my father, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I find that others feel empowered to share their suspicions that their loved one may be ill or that they are in fact a caregiver too. Through these conversations, the stigma of shame is deemphasized (for the prospective patient) and the unnecessary solitary watch of the caregiver can be shared.
This consistently positive experience, and sense of helping to build a larger support & information network, simply confirms that I am fulfilling my purpose even through this challenging season of life. I recently viewed a TEDx talk given by Tracy McMillan (from TEDx Olympic Blvd Women series) in which she stated, "The places where you have your biggest challenges in life become the places where you have the most to give..." As a result of my family's challenge with Alzheimer's, (or journey as I prefer to refer to it), I have posed the following questions to myself: "What do I have to give? What is the purpose I am now charged to fulfill?" Well, that purpose is two-fold -- (1) to provide encouragement along the unavoidable grief journey associated with loss of good health, caregiving or physical loss of a loved one and (2) to provide community education.
In my last two posts, "I'm Coming Out" and "Honor Them In Life," I have endeavored to encourage other caregivers by authentically sharing my family's journey thus far with Alzheimer's disease -- how we are adjusting, making shifts in our understanding and thought processes, and celebrating our blessings (which are very much still present). However, today I feel it important to focus on the second objective of Peaceful Journeys, to educate or serve as an information resource to caregivers and the community-at-large -- who stand to in-turn serve in a much needed support capacity to affected families. Therefore, today I want to address one of the most basic yet common questions surrounding the topic of Alzheimer's disease and dementia: "What exactly is the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?"
Not long ago my mother, Gloria Jacobs, shared with me the excellent metaphor she used recently to explain the nuances of these two medical terms (too often used interchangeably) to another confused individual. First, visualize an umbrella. Dementia represents the umbrella itself. Therefore, dementia is the generic medical term used to indicate the chronic memory loss which progressively impacts the completion of normal daily tasks and independent functioning. Then, falling (from) underneath the umbrella of dementia are the various forms of dementia-related neurological diseases (i.e., Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, etc.)-- each with its own underlying cause and specific subset of symptoms.
With over 5 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer's disease -- "the most common form of dementia accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all [dementia] cases," it is incumbent upon individuals/communities-at-large to be well-informed about this illness adversely affecting so many lives.1 Alzheimer's disease, caused by an overgrowth of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, leads to necrosis (or death of nerve cells within the brain). The result of such necrosis over time is what medical professionals have termed as Alzheimer's disease -- a specific form of dementia ultimately affecting the balance of all bodily functions -- language skills; memory; cognition (i.e., the ability to make sound judgments, reason or problem-solve at optimal capacity); personality and emotions; the ability to perform every day, formerly routine tasks; sensory ability; balance and mobility, etc.
It is important though not to just understand the difference between these two medical terms, but it is also vital that you know how you can find out if your loved one may be suffering with any form of dementia. Therefore, I have included yet another information resource below for those living in greater Jacksonville, Florida:
Baptist Agewell Center for Senior Health
Address: 841 Prudential Drive - Suite 180,
Jacksonville, FL 32207
If you have a loved one who is at least 65 years of age, I highly recommend contacting Baptist Agewell Center for Senior Health. While my father was diagnosed by a neurologist with St.Vincent's Medical Center here in Jacksonville, FL, we have since placed him under the care of Dr. Raphael Balbino at AgeWell; and, we have been very pleased! Agewell is a one-stop-shop provider with a team of network specialists, who consult on a regular basis with the geriatricians, managing on-going patient care. Agewell even works with outside organizations (such as the Central & North Florida chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and the Caregiver Coalition) to provide support services & programs for caregivers.
Simply follow the link to request a new patient assessment and complete the form. During the initial appointment, one of the center's geriatricians will perform a pre-screening, and if he/she feels your loved one needs to meet with a neurologist -- to begin the battery of testing required for official diagnosis -- then he/she will refer you to one in their network. Agewell accepts the following insurances: Medicare, PPO (Aetna, Blue Cross & United), Railroad coverage and Medicaid.
Please let me know in the comments section below if this blog post has helped you today! Also as always, if you have further questions, you are welcome to contact me directly. Finally, moving forward, expect bi-weekly posts on Thankful Thursday, beginning Thursday, 9/21/17. You really don't want to miss that post, because it will be an unforgettable follow-up to "Honoring Them In Life" (posted on Aug. 17th)! Yes, expect photographs from my father's living tribute and the special tribute video shown at his mega-celebration!
~ Kandice Jacobs-Armstrong
1 Alzheimer's Association, Basics of Alzheimer's disease: What it is and what you can do (2015) 3.
©2017 by Kandice Jacobs Creations, Incorporated. All rights reserved except where noted above. No portion of the copy, ideas, illustrations, images, recordings or photographs may be copied, transferred, transmitted or otherwise reproduced without the express written consent of Kandice Jacobs-Armstrong, CEO of Kandice Jacobs Creations, Incorporated.