Dementia is a medical disorder that causes problems with memory and thinking, and eventually the loss of ability to live independently and to safely perform daily functions. Alzheimer's disease is only one type of dementia, albeit the most common form, accounting for 7 out of 10 cases. It is an incurable and progressive disease that typically afflicts people in their seventh and eight decades of life, but can also begin at an earlier or later age. In the moderate to severe stages of dementia, people can fail to recognize their loved ones, have difficulty in walking and taking medications, and experience troubling behavioral problems such as wandering, hallucinations and delusions.
As people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia become increasingly dependent on others, caregivers experience many challenges in keeping their loved one at home. At some point, it may become unsafe to leave loved ones with dementia at home alone, as they may wander and get lost, fall or neglect to take care of themselves. Given that people with dementia can live for a period of several years to over a decade, the physical, emotional and economic tolls of providing care can truly become great.
Fortunately, the UCLA Health System has a wealth of medical expertise on Alzheimer's and dementia, and the greater Los Angeles area has excellent community resources to help patients and their families cope with the disease. However, each person's needs and resources are unique and thus, medical interventions and community-based resources need to be individualized to each person and family's particular situation.
The UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care program performs a comprehensive evaluation of each patient's medical, behavioral and psychosocial needs and works with the caregiver and the referring physician in putting together a personalized care plan. The dementia care specialist serves as a knowledgeable and sympathetic guide through the oftentimes complex course of the disease, allowing patients and families to achieve their medical and personal goals.