This week we are continuing our series on causes of altered mental status. A very common police response involves interaction with elderly persons whether it involves shoplifting, abuse or neglect, wandering, or wellness checks. In this Medical Monday we will talk about dementia. We will explore what dementia is, the progression of dementia, and how to best interact with people affected by dementia.
Many people think that dementia is a disease experienced by elderly people before it progresses into Alzheimer’s disease. That thought process is incorrect. Dementia is NOT a disease, but rather a generalized term that is commonly used to describe deficits in how the person communicates, thinks, and how they remember things. It is important to note that dementia is not a normal process of aging. Dementia occurs because of damage to brain cells. Not all elderly people will experience dementia.
Dementia is generally split up into four different phases. They are:
It is common in a person with early onset dementia to have difficulty in finding the right words. It is also common for them to become easily confused, disoriented, and oftentimes they will be repetitive. The best advice that I can offer all law enforcement officers is to be patient. This can be difficult at times for us for a myriad of reasons. Just think of the phrase “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” This phrase definitely applies here. Here are some additional tips for interacting with people with dementia:
I hope that you were able to gather some useful information from this Medical Monday. As always, if there is something that you would like to add, or if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!