My Dad Has Dementia. Will I?

If there’s anything as troubling as having a parent with dementia, it might be the thought that you’re next.  Watching your loved one lose his or her mental capabilities can be exhausting and disheartening. Thinking that it will happen to you can be petrifying.

Broadly, if your mom or dad has dementia, it means that you will have an increased likelihood of developing dementia.  However, there are many things to consider.

What is the cause of your dad’s dementia? 

Dementia is actually a symptom – cognitive decline – that is caused by an underlying medical condition.  The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. But dementia can also be caused by things like head trauma.  If your dad played football through high school and college, it’s possible he suffered a number of concussions that helped lead to his dementia.  This type of dementia has no hereditary aspect.

If your dad had a number of strokes, it’s possible that they were the predominant cause of his brain damage.  If your risk factors for stroke are different than his, you may be at lower risk.

What kind of lifestyle has he had?

If your dad was sedentary and had a passion for fast food, he increased his risk for dementia with those choices.  If you enjoy regular exercise and eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you can significantly reduce your risk of dementia.

While there is no cure for dementia, you can significantly reduce your risk for developing it through lifestyle.  These are some key factors:

  • Regular exercise
  • Regular sleep
  • A diet low in sugars and processed foods and high in fruits and vegetables
  • An active social lifestyle that gives you the chance to interact with various people
  • New mental challenges, like taking on a new hobby or learning a language

All these things create a more healthful environment for the brain and reduce your risk of medical conditions like stroke and diabetes that can damage it.

Disclaimer:  This content is provided for informational purposes and has been taken from sources deemed to be reliable.  We recommend that you always consult your doctor before undertaking any new activity.

About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.

Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones.  He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio.  He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.

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Acorn provides screened and vetted in-home caregivers for clients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS and other similar conditions. Options include 24/7, live-in, weekly, weekend or hourly care. Acorn serves Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and surrounding areas in Orange, Chatham, Durham and Wake counties.