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placeholder June 27, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Alzheimer's only one type of dementia

Tom Bruketta

People ask me what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is only one type of dementia.

There is also a form of Alzheimer's dementia that affects younger people. They are usually diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65. People might notice they are more forgetful. They are diagnosed when the forgetfulness begins to affect their daily life. This presents uniquely with each individual.

Some examples may be losing one's way to or from work, unable to learn how to use a new device like a smart phone. Another example would be making financial mistakes like not paying bills, excessively donating to random causes or believing by entering sweepstakes after sweepstakes they will win that $9 million.

Although only one aspect of the people with dementia's planning or judgement can be affected, people begin to assume they cannot reason anymore and are completely oblivious of what goes on around them.

With younger dementia, this is not necessarily true. They want to continue to be part of people's lives. Many times there is an awareness that their family and friends have moved on without them.

Once Tom, my husband, was sitting in our living room looking rather sad. I asked, "Tom, what's the matter?" He looked at me and said simply, "I don't think anyone remembers me." This was when he was, according to the stages of dementia, in the moderate to severe stage.

Tom was diagnosed with this form of Alzheimer's in 2007. He was still working as medical director of a mental health clinic in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. Memory DayByDay is offering memory screening for people concerned with memory loss. It isn't always Alzheimer's dementia so we look at other aspects of a person's life, like medications, supplements, sleep, etc.

With the early-onset dementia, the person with dementia has more insight to what is happening to them.

This became clear to me one day when I came home from work and asked Tom "How was your day?" He calmly looked at me and said, "You know I have dementia." I replied in the affirmative. He then said, "Well, that is what dementia is, I can't remember my day!"

There is a movement occurring in England to help younger people to continue to participate in their families and communities. It is called the Dementia Friends. I hope to promote this idea in the United States. Dementia Friends are to help people understand how to interact with people diagnosed with dementia. It is not caregiving training but is to aid salespeople in grocery stores, and other retail stores assist someone with dementia.

I've assembled a Dementia Friend kit and I will send the kit to anyone who goes to my Dementia Friend page on our website, www.memorydaybyday.org. and fills out the application.

The Memory Café, a place for people with dementia and caregivers, had a grand opening on May 12. It was heartening to see such support from people who belong to the Kiwanis Club and the San Leandro Breakfast Club as well as Councilman Lee Thomas and Councilwoman Corrnie Lopez. The San Leandro Chamber of Commerce hosted the opening.

We hope the Memory Café is a place for people with dementia to come and enjoy the community atmosphere. It is located in the Community Center of St Peter's Lutheran Church at 294 Broadmoor Blvd., San Leandro, and is open from 2 to 8 p.m. every Thursdays.

My company, Memory DayByDay, was established to assist those with the early-onset or early stage Alzheimer's dementia. Our website explains our mission. If you want to know more about how to help people with early-onset dementia or know someone who could benefit from our program.

(Please contact Tricia Bruketta, MS, NP, president, CEO, at 510-931-9336. Our Hayward office is located at 111 Jackson Street, Suite A, Hayward.)

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