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Dementia and Infections: Understanding the Connection

Dementia and Infections

Chronic illness can affect your life in many ways ranging from annoying to life-threatening. Recognizing illness early on in yourself or a loved one may allow for a better quality of life and even more time to live.

One such illness is Dementia. Not many conditions devastate a family quite like this one.

Arming yourself with information may help you combat the effects of this disease. Dementia and infections interplay with one another, and learning this information can save a loved one’s life.

Dementia and Infections

The World Health Organization reports that about 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Injuries or brain disease can bring this chronic disease on anybody.

It causes devastating effects to both the mind and body, making it important to understand the underworkings of the condition and the connections between dementia and infections.

Though conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease can create irreversible dementia effects, doctor’s may be able to reverse the damage from other conditions that cause dementia if caught early enough.

Knowing that you or a loved one will live with dementia also helps you to watch for problems that the person would typically catch on their own.

Furthermore, catching dementia promptly allows you to take measures to slow the progression, even if you cannot reverse the damage. Knowing the signs of dementia can help you salvage your personality and save your life before the condition progresses too far.

Signs of Dementia

When dementia first starts to rear its head, the person may feel anxious, lonely and depressed, for no apparent reason. though you may easily mistake these early signs of dementia for clinical depression, the condition causes other changes including:

  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • mental confusion
  • memory loss
  • major personality changes
  • inability to speak or understand words
  • storytelling
  • experiencing trouble with muscle coordination
  • falling
  • getting lost

People suffering from dementia often experience these symptoms more intensely at night. Dementia can cause a slow or fast mental decline, depending on the underlying cause.

When they come on slow, family and friends may mistake them as normal signs of aging. Either way, these signs may indicate a look into assisted living homes.

Detecting Dementia and Infections

There is a major interplay between dementia and infections, and it can go in a couple of different directions.

A bad infection in an elderly person may not cause the typical symptoms that younger people often experience. In fact, it can create more mental symptoms than physical, mimicking dementia.

Recognizing the signs of an infection in an elderly person can point to a different illness causing their dementia symptoms. In this case, a heavy duty course of antibiotics may reverse their symptoms completely and restore their full mental function.

Knowing the signs of dementia, you can also see how a person faces a risk for contracting secondary infections. Dementia can cause infection in different ways.

A person with dementia may not even remember falling, leaving them unknowingly injured. Falls can lead to broken bones. Broken bones left alone can sometimes lead to infection.

Their cognitive state also puts them at risk for unknowingly developing more typical infections, such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections. As their mental state declines, they may find it more difficult to recognize changes in themselves.

This means that easy to treat illnesses may progress into something more serious before anybody detects them. This can threaten a person’s life. 

If you care for somebody who suffers from dementia, you should regularly watch them for signs of infection. These include:

Fever

Though doctors consider a temperature over 100.5 a fever, you should pay attention to any elevation over 99 degrees in an elderly person with dementia. Check their temperature if you notice them trembling, flushing of their skin, or if they feel warm to the touch. Fever provides a good indicator of infection, as it means something triggered the immune system to fight.

Fatigue

Intense exhaustion or lethargy does not normally come with dementia. This typically indicates an underlying disease.

Appetite Changes

Somebody suffering from advanced dementia may not know why they do not feel like eating. Infection can make them feel too sick to eat, so watch for a decreased appetite.

Pain

Sometimes their brain takes away the words they need to express the pain they feel. If you notice the person grimacing, favoring a certain area of their body, or writhing around, they may have an infection.

Confusion

Though dementia causes confusion all on its own, their mental state should not change rapidly overnight. This is one of the more prevalent bladder infection signs in elderly patients, and can also indicate pneumonia and other serious illness.

Do not simply brush it off if they seem more confused than usual. At the very least, watch them for the other signs of infection.

What’s Next?

If you notice signs of infection in your loved one, promptly call their doctor. Go with them, as their mental state may not allow them to properly describe their symptoms. 

The doctor may hospitalize them if they are experiencing temporary dementia due to a bad infection. If they suffer from dementia from another cause, they may send them home with medication, which your loved one may not take correctly. If possible, administer their medication for the entire prescription course.

How to Prevent Infections

Preventing infection for a person with any cognitive impairment may prove difficult. They may lack the ability to practice proper hygiene.

You can help by:

  • making sure they stay vaccinated against the flu each year
  • vaccinating yourself as well
  • asking sick visitors not to come around until they are well
  • having everybody wash hands and sanitize upon entering the home
  • washing and sanitizing your loved one’s hands regularly
  • offer them fluids frequently to encourage proper hydration

Even in the early stages of dementia, little tasks like hand washing might slip their mind. If you cannot always be around during the earlier stages, keeping reminder signs near sinks can help. 

Choose the Proper Care

Due to the increased risk with dementia and infections, you may want to consider help in caring for your loved one with dementia. Many families want to give their loved one the best but simply cannot do it all on their own.

Dementia requires a watchful eye as it progresses, and the risk is great. Look into our dementia care for an approach that centers on your loved one’s best interest.