A medical alert bracelet is an essential item for anyone with dementia. Medical alert bracelets provide basic important information that you or your loved one may not be able to provide otherwise, such as: full name, address, phone number, and medical conditions. If you have early onset dementia or are the primary caregiver for someone with dementia, you know how difficult even everyday activities can be. As the disease progresses, the burdens on caregivers get even heavier. Dementia sufferers become increasingly confused and agitated and remember less and less about their lives. In middle and late stages of dementia, patients are quite vulnerable—many forget their names and addresses. As memory fades, a medical alert bracelet becomes increasingly important, even lifesaving.
Symptoms of Dementia
The main symptom of dementia is memory loss. People with dementia have difficulty forming new memories and have trouble retrieving existing memories. In early stages, this may simply mean a patient loses track of her keys or her purse. In later stages, a person with dementia may not be able to recognize her own family members or even remember her own name.
Dementia causes many other cognitive problems, too. People with dementia have problems with executive function, which is the ability to plan and carry out actions. As caregivers know, problems with executive functioning mean that patients cannot take care of themselves (e.g. bath and dress themselves). People with dementia may develop paranoia and hallucinations, or seeing things that are not actually there. Dementia also makes people confused, irritable, and restless. This restlessness leads many patients with dementia to wander off, away from the safety and protection of their homes.
Types of Dementia
Dementia is a feature of many neurological illnesses. In other words, people may be diagnosed with dementia because they have one of the following illnesses:
Alzheimer's disease – Memory loss is usually the first symptom
Vascular dementia – Also known as multi-infarct dementia, caused by many tiny strokes
Parkinson's disease – Mainly causes tremor, rigidity, and imbalance, but also dementia
Dementia with Lewy bodies – Related to Parkinson’s disease, but dementia is prominent
Frontotemporal dementia – Includes several less common forms of dementia
Huntington's disease – Causes dance-like movements and incoordination, but also dementia
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome – Caused by severe vitamin B1 deficiency
Sadly, these dementias have no cure. Even more unfortunate is that the symptoms of dementia usually get worse over time. Currently, treatment is aimed at preserving function and delaying disease progression as long as possible.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, people with dementia tend to get worse in the evenings, a phenomenon is call sundowning. People who exhibit sundowning are more agitated, irritable, and confused in the late afternoon and early evening compared to the rest of the day. This is a particularly challenging time for caregivers, since the dementia sufferer may become verbally and physically combative.
People with dementia often do best when they are in safe, stable, relatively unchanging environments. They can become severely agitated after even small changes in their surroundings or typical routine. A trip to the hospital, an unexpected visitor, or other minor changes can be enough to cause distress and chaos.
Sufferers tend to be more likely to “elope” or run away from home when they are particularly restless, agitated, or anxious.