Find the cause of the dementia

There are as many as 250 different causes of dementia. These fall into 3 broad categories. Reversible. Not reversible but haltable. Progressive.

It is important to the patient and her caregivers to determine if the dementia is a type that can be reversed. Excellent Mayo Clinic Article describing reversible, and non-reversible dementias.

Never accept a diagnosis that is based solely on a 30 questions mental status examination. Be certain that the diagnostic workup includes a CT, an MRI or a PET scan. There should be blood tests, as well.

Don't assume that a person diagnosed with dementia cannot sign legal documents

Sometimes, dementia progresses in stages. In early stages of dementia, even though the patient may have difficulty remembering words, they may have enough congnitive capacity to sign a power of attorney or to create a will or a trust. An elder law attorney may be competent to assess whether the patient understands enough to meet legal standards.

Consider whether a person with dementia should drive.

A dementia diagnosis has implications for driving. It does not automatically mean that the patient cannot drive. It does mean that the patient should be tested periodically to assess his safety behind the wheel. Driving Evaluation available in Tucson

Extreme heat poses a special danger to drivers with dementia. Getting lost may expose them to dehydration, hyperthermia and death.

Their dementia diagnosis -- your estate planning documents

Long ago you named your spouse to serve as your medical decision maker and your financial decision maker via a power of attorney. Now that your spouse has been diagnosed with dementia, it is time to change that. And if the dementia patient is going to be receiving aid from ALTCS, you probably do not want them to inherit your estate or to be the death beneficiary on your bank accounts and IRAs.

Support Groups

The Alzheimer's Association has support groups for family members and caregivers of dementia patients. All dementia is covered, not just Alzheimer's. These groups are just the right combination of emotional support and exchange of valuable information for caregivers. The support groups and meeting times for all of Southern Arizona are here: Alzheimer's Association Support Groups