smiling Senior woman embracing a smiling Senior from behind

At Integracare, we cannot overstate how important Dementia education is for our Clients. Learning about the disease can help Seniors and their loved ones understand what a diagnosis entails, and how they can develop coping strategies for the future.

That’s one of the reasons why we have this blog. As the premier provider of at home health care in Toronto and Mississauga, we use our platform to inform our readers about the disease.

Today, we’re shining a spotlight on the 7 A’s of Dementia. It’s a list of seven disorders that can develop as the disease progresses and damages the brain. All starting with the letter “A”, these disorders provide insight into how your loved one experiences the world.

The 7 A’s of Dementia Care

What can we expect? It’s one of the most common questions about Dementia and Alzheimer’s asked by our Clients and their families after a diagnosis.

While everyone’s experience with Dementia can and will be different, the disease causes changes in the brain that result in the following seven conditions:

  1. Agnosia
  2. Altered Perception
  3. Amnesia
  4. Anosognosia
  5. Apathy
  6. Aphasia
  7. Apraxia

Our list is in alphabetical order, for ease of reading, but these conditions may not afflict your loved one in this particular order. These conditions may present in a different sequence, or your loved may not even experience all seven A’s on the list.

With that in mind, let’s move onto what these medical terms mean. Below, you’ll find a simple definition for each condition and how they may affect your loved one.

1. Agnosia

The first “A” on the list stands for agnosia, a condition that interferes with people’s ability to process sensory information. Agnosia makes it difficult or impossible for a person to interpret their own sense of taste, touch, smell, sound, or sight.

While all five senses can be impacted by agnosia, it usually only affects one sense at a time. Depending on which sense is afflicted, agnosia may present different challenges in a Senior’s life.

Someone with visual agnosia, for example, may not recognize the familiar faces of loved ones or trusted Caregivers. Without the ability to identify people from sight, a person living with Dementia might believe their friends, family, or Caregivers are complete strangers despite knowing them for years.

This can be very distressing for people living with Dementia, especially if you help them groom, bathe, or dress. From their perspective, someone they don’t know is trying to help them do these private tasks, and they may be distrustful, anxious, or even combative.

While you might understand why they behave this way, it can still be hard to handle these changes in your loved one’s behaviour. If you struggle to care for someone you love who has agnosia, get in touch to discuss how our Dementia Care services in Toronto and Mississauga can help.

Our team follows the Gentle Persuasive Approach and relies on Behavioural Support Training to manage these negative emotions during companionship and nursing care. Ongoing education in the latest treatments and techniques helps our team support and reassure your loved one at this challenging time.

Dementia Care professional holding a glass of juice and medication beside a Senior

2. Altered Perception

Dementia can alter a person’s perception of the world around them, which can change the way they move and act.

Altered perception may impede your loved one’s spatial awareness, making it hard to understand where their body is in relation to their environment. They might misjudge how far away their coffee table is when sitting on the couch or how deep a bath is before getting in.

Altered perception can also lead to troubling misperceptions or misidentifications about their environment. For example, someone with altered perception might see a shadow on the ground and believe it’s a deep hole. In other words, they might see one thing and mistake it for another.

In particularly bad cases, altered perception can even cause hallucinations, delusions, and time-shifting. Time-shifting distorts a person’s sense of time and place, making them think they’re living in an earlier time of their life.

Understandably, altered perception can interfere with how someone interacts with the world. However, we believe it doesn’t have to stand in the way of your loved one’s independence. Integracare home care in Mississauga & Toronto involves a variety of healthcare professionals on staff who reassure our Clients when they lose confidence in their mobility or perception.

On a more practical level, the Integracare team assists Seniors throughout their day with a wide range of support in the home, including Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) when they are incapable of doing them on their own. We proudly provide the best Dementia Care Mississauga and Toronto have to offer because of our commitment to our Clients health and mental well-being.

3. Amnesia

Amnesia, perhaps the most well-known symptom of Dementia, describes the tell-tale memory loss that comes with the disease. How much your loved one might forget depends on the severity of their Dementia.

In past posts on the Integracare blog, we’ve discussed the three stages of Dementia: early, middle, and late. These three stages mark how the disease and its memory loss progress over time.

In the early stages, short-term memory loss can be a frustrating annoyance, as your loved one might forget where they put their keys, or they might not remember something important you told them. There’s a good chance they don’t require help throughout the day at this stage, or they might only need basic assistance with special tasks.

As the disease progresses, memory loss will worsen. Your loved one might struggle to follow instructions, find their way home, or even dress themselves properly. This level of memory loss can impair your loved one’s ability to work or keep up with friends and family.

Eventually, amnesia can erase important memories and their sense of self. This memory loss usually coincides with the last stage of Dementia when a Senior may be dependent on others for their daily needs.

At this stage, you may need a Live-In Caregiver who is with your loved one at all times. It may also be the time to start thinking about Palliative Care to ensure your loved one is safe and comfortable at end-of-life.

Compassionate Live-In and Palliative Care are cornerstone of our services, the best Dementia Care Mississauga and Toronto have to offer. We understand how important it is to keep our Clients comfortable and cared for at the end.

Senior man and woman laughing and looking at photo album

4. Anosognosia

Compared to amnesia, anosognosia is a lesser-known condition that may come with Dementia. However, it still affects millions of people living with the disease.

Someone who has anosognosia is unaware of their health conditions. For this reason, some people refer to anosognosia as a lack of insight, as it prevents people from realizing they’re ill or how their illness impairs their judgement and memory.

Unlike denial, which many Seniors may go through at their initial diagnosis, anosognosia is a symptom of brain damage caused by Dementia. It’s a physiological disorder that makes it impossible to recognize their disease or its symptoms.

This “A” can be challenging for families of those living with Dementia because anosognosia can make Seniors believe nothing is wrong. Believing themselves perfectly healthy, they may refuse their diagnosis and rebuff family’s concerns or assistance.

Trying to convince your loved one they’re sick can take a toll on your own mental health, especially if their symptoms increase their risk of danger. If you’re struggling to convince your loved one that they have Dementia, or that they need help, talk to their doctors and reach out to learn more about our home care in Mississauga & Toronto.

Thanks to our award-winning healthcare services, Integracare can proudly boast being the only “Dementia Friendly” home health care company, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto (AST).

Earlier this year, we renewed our partnership with the AST and earned their prestigious Partner of the Month award.

Thanks to our ground-breaking collaboration with the AST, we can provide our Caregivers with the best tools and advanced Dementia Care information. This way, you can trust our home care in Mississauga & Toronto supports Seniors and their families while they cope with anosognosia.

5. Apathy

While anosognosia makes someone unaware of their disease, apathy means they don’t care about Dementia or many other things in life.

Apathy is an extreme lack of interest in the world around them, and this indifference can take a sledgehammer to a person’s motivation. It can rob someone of their passion in life, leaving them withdrawn and aloof.

Apathy is a symptom shared by many mental health issues; however, when it comes to Dementia, it’s caused by damage to the frontal lobes of the brain. This part of the brain is what controls decision making and setting appropriate goals.

Damage here can be heartbreaking for families of those living with Dementia, as you can see your once passionate and strong-minded Senior become listless and uninterested. As the disease progresses, they may struggle to make any decisions or complete basic tasks on their own.

At this point, having a Personal Support Worker (PSW) or nursing staff at home may be necessary — not just for their health and safety, but for their mental well-being. Integracare offers home care in Mississauga & Toronto that prioritizes quality of life, so our PSWs and nursing staff work hard to return joy to your loved one’s daily life.

6. Aphasia

Trouble finding one’s words is another common symptom of Dementia. It’s caused by aphasia, which disrupts a person’s ability to communicate their thoughts to others. It may also interfere with how easily they understand someone when they talk or write.

Aphasia can sound and look different depending on the person. Some may struggle to remember names, while others might mix up the words for everyday objects. Aphasia can make the physical act of speaking hard, so they might pause or stumble over their words. It can even affect how easily someone retrieves words while talking or writing.

A Dementia Care Registered Nurse in blue scrubs talking to Seniors

Like many of the conditions on this list, aphasia can worsen as the disease progresses. That’s because Dementia causes damage to the parts the brain responsible for language.

Aphasia can be frustrating for those coping with it. They may be fully aware of what they’re trying to say; they just can’t access the words to express it. Worry and self-consciousness about how they might sound can cause them to withdraw socially.

Having patience for your loved one as they struggle with their words is one of the most important things you can do for them.

You can also reach out to us here at Integracare for insights on how to help them communicate their needs by alternative methods. Aphasia can interfere with how easily they can express their health needs, so it helps having experienced Dementia Care professionals there to ensure they’re safe and comfortable.

7. Apraxia

Closing out the list with this last “A”, we turn to apraxia, a condition that impairs a person’s motor control.

Someone living with apraxia may have trouble with their mobility, coordination, or even speech. That’s because it can impact any muscle in the body, including your tongue.

Apraxia is caused by degeneration in the neural pathways in the brain, which makes it difficult to perform familiar actions.

Since apraxia can affect any learned patterns of movement, it can make ADLs challenging for someone living with Dementia. They may struggle to undo their zipper, handle a toothbrush, or turn on a tap.

Like other conditions we’ve outlined today, apraxia can make someone feel self-conscious. They might be hesitant or fearful of trying to do something on their own, knowing they can’t.

Having a compassionate Dementia Care team can help reassure them at this difficult time. Our Caregivers have been trained how to de-escalate stressful and frustrating symptoms, like apraxia.

However, one of the biggest benefits of setting up a Dementia Care plan with Integracare is peace of mind. Our Caregivers specialize in helping Seniors who have mobility and coordination issues. We’ll partner you with a highly qualified professional who provides assistance with ADLs, in addition to being a friendly and compassionate companion.

How to Help Loved Ones with the 7 A’s

Seeing someone you love experience aphasia or amnesia can be heartbreaking, but there is some comfort in knowing you aren’t alone; these are common issues faced by many Seniors dealing with Dementia at home.

Regardless of which of the 7 A’s your loved one experiences, our skilled and compassionate healthcare professionals can help. As a team, we prioritize compassionate Dementia Care that puts our Clients’ quality of life first, ensuring they can live both joyfully and safely at home.

To find out more about the best Dementia Care Mississauga and Toronto have to offer, get in touch. We’re happy to discuss how our team can help you and your loved ones today!