Researchers continue to learn more about organic brain syndrome all the time, and it seems that scientists are learning more about all forms of every day. This term is a broad definition for a host of physical conditions in the brain that result in diminished mental competence, such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), Pick’s disease, and several others. Still, no amount of research can make caring for an aging parent or spouse easier. It is, however, possible to understand the risk factors and prepare for the future. Just like most diseases, there are lifestyle and genetic factors that increase risk.
Women develop dementia faster than men
Dementia is partly hereditary. However, a recent research by the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C. concluded that women develop dementia faster than men. This is somewhat troubling news, because the majority of adult family caregivers who take care of seniors suffering from dementia are female. This is generally seen where an aging parent requires in-home care, and an adult daughter is more likely to provide that care than adult sons. While this generalization is certainly not absolute, it does represent a strikingly consistent statistical norm.
Therefore, in many cases, the very people who are providing care for an aging parent may be the same people who develop dementia earliest. This creates a generational strain on families to provide for those suffering from various forms of organic brain syndrome, such as dementia.
PTSD dramatically increases the risk of developing dementia
Many seniors today are also wartime veterans. Some are diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and likely many others are suffering from some level of PTSD without ever being diagnosed. A recent study showed that those with PTSD are at twice the risk of developing dementia than those without PTSD. So, aging combat veterans who either have PTSD or suspect they may suffer from some form of combat stress should at least be aware that they may have a significantly higher risk of developing some level of diminished mental capacity as they age. Although scientists have yet to discover precisely why this is the case, the fact remains that it should warrant careful planning on the part of those who have this risk factor.
An ounce of prevention can make all the difference
Although nobody wants to think about developing dementia or having to care for a loved one who does, simple powers of attorney and a carefully developed family plan can be very helpful in providing security and peace of mind for an elderly member of the family and for the adult children who may likely become caregivers at some point in the future. Without such protections, formal guardianship procedures are often the only way to provide for a senior with dementia. These can be costly and painful for everyone involved. If you or a loved one know you have added risk factors for developing dementia, it would be wise to consult an experienced elder law attorney long before any symptoms arise.