If you or a woman Veteran you know is forgetting appointments or getting confused about the day of the week, it may be a sign of dementia. Dementia is an illness that affects the brain, impairing memory, thinking, and actions. It is usually a progressive illness, and although it is more common in older adults, people of any age can develop it. Dementia not only affects memory, but it can also lead to a decline in communications skills and poor judgment that impacts everyday life. Warning signs of dementia include: asking the same questions over again, becoming lost in places the individual knows well, not being able to follow directions, getting confused about time, people and places, and having problems with self-care, nutrition, bathing or safety.
A diagnostic evaluation is needed to determine the cause(s) of apparent problems with memory and thinking abilities or the ability to care for oneself. Other problems such as delirium and depression may present with similar symptoms as dementia and need to be considered before a diagnosis of dementia is made. Sensory impairment, adverse drug events, or psychiatric or metabolic illnesses may also be mistaken for dementia. A dementia evaluation commonly includes getting a good history of the problems from the individual and caregiver; a focused physical examination; and certain types of blood tests.
The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia. 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
Learn More at Alzheimer’s Association – Women and Alzheimer’s http://mybrain.alz.org*†
The Shriver Report on Women and Alzheimer’s Disease http://shriverreport.org/special-report/a-womans-nation-takes-on-alzheimers*†
Over 60% of caregivers for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are women. Over 13 million women are living with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Dementia impacts the lives of Veterans who are living with Dementia, and also their caregivers. The stress of managing dementia and caring for someone with dementia can impact your everyday life. VA offers support and services for caregivers. A Caregiver Support Coordinator is a licensed clinician who can help coordinate services and supports available through VA and in the community to assist caregivers of Veterans.
VA has a dedicated support line for caregivers to ask questions, listen and connect you with a Caregiver Support Coordinator. The number is 1-855-260-3274.
After a diagnosis of dementia is made, some of the VA services that may be appropriate are Home Based Primary Care, Skilled Home Care, Homemaker and Home Health Aide, Home Telehealth, Respite Care, Home Hospice Care and Hospice Care. Learn more by visiting: http://www.va.gov/geriatrics/Alzheimers_And_Dementia_Care.asp or http://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_services.asp
Veterans Health Library: Understanding Dementia: http://www.veteranshealthlibrary.org/142,85077_VA
Veterans Health Library: Understanding Reversible Dementias: http://www.veteranshealthlibrary.org/142,85069_VA
VA Information & Support for In-Home Dementia Caregivers: http://www.ruralhealth.va.gov/education/dementia-caregivers/
Women Veteran Call Center: Women Veterans can call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) to ask questions about available VA services and resources.
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