Earlier this week, while I was listening to a social work colleague (Mary Hulme of Moonstone Geriatrics) give a talk on dementia at the public library, the following question came up:
“How can one keep Alzheimer’s from getting worse?”
Now, Alzheimer’s disease — the most common underlying cause of dementia symptoms — does slowly get worse no matter what. (Given enough years, it will eventually damage the brain to the point of causing a slow death, which is why Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease.)
But on the other hand, we do know that some things tend to slow the progression of brain decline, whereas other things seem to speed up the decline. In other words, the actions we take — and don’t take — can influence a person’s dementia journey.
In my experience, people often have heard about things that might slow down decline (exercise is one of my favorites).
But it seems to me that people are often much less well-informed about the things that can speed up Alzheimer’s decline. This is too bad, because often it is possible to take actions to avoid or minimize things that might cause dementia to get worse faster.
So today I’m going to write about what I think is the most important of these potentially dementia-accelerating problems: delirium.