What is the Difference Between a Diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Dememtia or Behavioral?
Many people mistakenly believe that Dementia and Alzheimer's are two separate diseases. In fact, "dementia" is the umbrella or overview of all the symptoms: Short term memory loss, can't find the right words, repeating things over and over, getting lost, can't follow directions and numerous other symptoms.
There are many diseases that cause Dementia such as Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Alcoholic Dementia, etc. Alzheimer's is the most common disease that causes Dementia. All forms of Dementia are a roller coaster of good and bad days with symptoms getting progressively worse over time. As the disease progresses, people lose their short term memory and most often are fixated on the past. They may not remember what they had for breakfast, but can describe their childhood in great detail. In simple terms, the more they progress in their disease, the further they go back in their minds. It is very common for someone in mid/late stage Dementia to look for their parents, to talk about events they experienced in their childhood and focus on past events because that is what is familiar to them as their short term memory has faded.
You may also hear someone has a diagnosis of "Behavioral." This is not the same as Dementia. The definition according to HealthGrades.com: "Behavioral symptoms are persistent or repetitive behaviors that are unusual, disruptive, inappropriate, or cause problems. Aggression, criminal behavior, defiance, drug use, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, inattention, secrecy and self-harm are examples of behavioral symptoms". When someone is classified as Behavioral, they may have a history of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or other mental disorders. In some cases their behaviors may be caused by medication or other factors. If the behavior is something new, then it is very important to have a "psychological evaluation" to determine what is causing the behaviors and in some instances they can be managed or reversed.
If someone has a Behavioral diagnosis, they should not be in a Memory Care unit. A memory care unit is a secured environment for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or any form of Dementia. If someone is Behavioral, they need care that is different than what is offered in Memory Care and should be receiving specialized treatment for their behaviors.
When seeking a senior living community, its always wise to pre-plan so that in the event that you or a family member needs to move to Assisted Living or Memory Care, you've already seen a few options and have an idea of one that will be a good fit. No one ever thinks they will end up in the hospital and not be able to return to their home, but it happens frequently, so it's best to have a "Plan B' rather than leave that task to your friends or relatives. It's much easier for everyone if the decision isn't made under stressful circumstances and if possible, that you involve the person who will be moving.
To help you in your search for a community or care home, I recommend using a LOCAL "Placement or Referral" Agency. The local placement agents are professionals who have been in the industry, are familiar with the various options and have resources to help you select a community as well as help make the transition to senior living as stress free as possible. They will preview communities for you and set up appointments to tour and possibly have lunch or participate in an activity if desired. They will ask pertinent questions and help you select the appropriate community not only for your loved one, but one that works for your entire family.
There are many factors to consider when selecting a senior living community or care home such as: budget, location, proximity to a hospital, nursing staff, caregiver to resident ratio, visiting hours, services offered, amenities, quality of food, etc. Most Referral Agents DO NOT charge you or your family for their services, however, if they place you or your family member, then the community or care home pays the referral agency a commission.
Local agents are familiar with the various options for senior living as well as the management teams, which communities have had good surveys, special rates and/or promotions, etc.
Keep in mind that if you go online to search for senior living, often times you end up caught in the web of one of the large corporate companies. These corporate (national) agencies don't operate the same way as a LOCAL referral/placement agency. Their agents are located across the country and handle an entire region. Their job is to answer your call, ask a few questions and then provide you with a list of options in your city that may or may not be close to your location. In most cases the agent has not set foot inside any of the buildings that they're referring you to. They will provide you with a list of their "Partners", meaning the communities or care homes that pay them for referrals. They dispatch your name, phone number and information about your situation to their partners who will proceed to bombard you with phone calls and/or email communication. These large national companies charge their partners upwards of 90% of the first months' rent for providing a list. The agents don't set up appointments or accompany you on tours.
Using a local referral/placement agency or a national one is up to you. If you desire more personalized service and a partner to act as your advocate, then local is the way to go!
Robin Coats - I enjoy writing about topics that will be helpful to seniors and their families. If there is something that you're interested in reading about, send me an email or text. and I'll do my best to cover it.