Crying is Good For You

Dementia will bring you to tears.

The good news? Tears are good for you.

“Being strong” is part of your job description when you have a loved-one with dementia. But dementia is a long, hard journey, and tears come with the territory no matter how strong you are.

A while back, I stumbled across an article on the internet called “7Good Reasons to Cry Your Eyes Out” by Therese Borchard. It says tears “are like a natural therapy or massage session, but they cost a lot less!”

The writer explains that crying releases toxins from the body and also stimulates the production of endorphins, our natural “feel good” hormones. The article gives credence to the old adage that you’ll feel better after a good cry.

In another online article called “The Miracle of Tears,” writer Jerry Bergman reports that “Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and peptic ulcers.”

In other words, if you don’t let those emotional tears flow every now and then, you increase your risk for all sorts of health problems.

So, although I don’t recommend opening the floodgates in front of the person with dementia (He is confused and generally feeling bad enough already!), don’t hold back the tears forever.

If your loved-one lives in a memory care community, I guarantee you the staff there is used to tears and won’t be at all shocked if you “fall apart” in front of them. They may even shed a few tears right along with you.

Otherwise, find a friend or just a private place where you feel safe to let the tears flow. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I collapsed sobbing in my car after visits with my dad.

During my “breakdowns,” I doubted I could survive another day of my dad’s dementia. But I did survive. And it turns out that allowing those moments of “weakness” actually helped give me strength to endure.

“What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.” – Jewish Proverb

My dad went through some tough times in his life. He always did what needed to be done, made sure everyone else was taken care of . . . He was as strong as they get, but even he shed a tear or two in its time.

My dad went through some tough times in his life. He always did what needed to be done, made sure everyone else was taken care of . . . He was as strong as they get, but even he shed a tear or two in its time.

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What’s the Difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease? The two terms tend to be used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Here’s a quick clarification.

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms.

Alzheimer’s is a disease and is the most common (but not the only) cause of that set of symptoms. Strokes, brain injuries, and other diseases can also be responsible.

Sometimes, dementia is the result of a vitamin deficiency, hormone imbalance, or medication interactions; in those cases, it may be reversible.

All dementias are not the same, because different diseases and conditions attack different parts of the brain.

In general, though, the symptoms that make up “dementia” are memory loss along with personality changes, problems with communication, or impaired reasoning. Occasional forgetfulness or grumpiness is not dementia. When a combination of these issues becomes severe enough to interfere with normal daily functioning, then we’re talking about dementia.

Short-term memory loss is sort of a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease, so that’s what most people think of when they hear “dementia,” but depending on the part of the brain being effected, dementia might manifest itself with things like a short attention span, poor judgment, angry outbursts, inappropriate sexual behavior, loss of peripheral or depth perception, inability to find the right words, not recognizing familiar objects, or asking repetitive questions. The important point is that it’s not just memory loss.

Whatever you call it, and whatever the cause, dementia is a sad, difficult experience for everyone involved. Knowing some of the basics of what it is – and what it isn’t – allows us to be more helpful and compassionate to those afflicted with dementia and to those who are caring for them.

Please spread the word.