Dementia refers to a decline in mental function severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to complete daily activities. The condition presents itself in a variety of forms, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.
Not all individuals who suffer from memory loss have dementia. If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as impaired motor skills, functioning, judgment, and memory trouble, contact a medical professional for an evaluation.
If you have a family member with dementia it’s important to understand you are not alone. Below is detailed information about the condition to help you when making care decisions:
Dementia itself is not a specific disease. Instead, it is a term used to describe a variety of symptoms that impact a person’s thinking and functioning skills. Oftentimes, people associate dementia with senility. This is a common misconception: Mental decline is not a normal aspect of aging.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. The second-leading type is vascular dementia, which often results from a stroke.
During an evaluation, a doctor will discuss an individual’s medical history and look for at least two primary symptoms of dementia. These include, but are not limited to, trouble with the following:
- Visual perception
Some forms of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms worsen over time. If you or a family member are experiencing altered cognitive abilities, contact your doctor to schedule an evaluation.
Causes & Symptoms
Different types of dementia can be caused by various factors, including death of brain cells, stroke, and neurodegenerative disease. The area of the brain affected often dictates how a person is impacted by the condition.
Other aspects that can influence the development of dementia include vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems. However, these can be reversed with treatment. Brain injury or tumors, AIDS, alcoholism, meningitis, and Pick’s disease are additional causes. While some underlying medical conditions can be treated to restore mental functioning, oftentimes dementia is irreversible.
Symptoms of dementia typically include trouble with memory, focus, attention, completing daily tasks, disorientation, and mood changes. However, symptoms vary depending on the form of dementia a person has.
While a person with dementia may notice symptoms on their own, family or friends are sometimes the first to pick up on any cognitive changes.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The ultimate goal of dementia treatment is to slow the progression of the disease. Dementia caused by certain conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects and alcohol, can improve.
One critical component of diagnosis and treatment is seeking medical attention if you or a family member are experiencing cognitive or psychological changes. A medical evaluation can determine if a treatable medical condition is causing dementia-like symptoms. In addition, early diagnosis gives individuals the opportunity to benefit from current treatment options, such as clinical studies.
Physical examinations, a person’s medical history, and lab tests can help doctors diagnose dementia. In some cases, however, a person may be referred to a neurologist to assist in diagnosis.
Dementia treatment varies based on the specific form and cause. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is progressive and cannot be cured. Therefore, medical professionals aim to slow and lessen symptoms. Treatment methods include depression medication, vitamins for a specific deficiency, and ceasing medication that may contribute to confusion.
Three significant risk factors in the development of dementia are age, genetics, and cardiovascular function.
Research continues to uncover risk factors and methods for preventing the disorder. Regular physical activity is believed to reduce the development of some forms of dementia. Exercise helps by improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Diet is also an important factor in dementia prevention. Specifically, researchers recommend the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on consuming mainly plant-based foods and using healthy fats such as olive oil.
Types of Dementia
Understanding the underlying causes, symptoms, and treatments of dementia is important if you have a family member living with the disease and are exploring care options.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and affects a person’s memory and other cognitive abilities. This condition is progressive, meaning as time goes on symptoms worsen. Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include difficulty remembering things, depression, and apathy. Later symptoms can present themselves as disorientation, confusion, difficulty speaking, and behavior changes. Alzheimer’s is irreversible and is the sixth-leading cause of death among Americans.
Vascular dementia can result from a stroke, and occurs when blood vessels in the brain are narrowed or blocked. Individuals can reduce the chance of developing vascular dementia by controlling risk factors, which include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Symptoms depend on which area of an individual’s brain is affected; and include difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, trouble with short-term memory, and disorientation.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a progressive form of dementia. DLB results in a decline in mental abilities over time. Symptoms include visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances, memory loss, and depression. Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of proteins that develop in the brain’s cortex, leading to the condition. Lewy bodies can also be present in Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders.
Mixed dementia occurs when an individual has two or more types of dementia. Symptoms vary depending on the region of the brain affected, but are often similar to those of Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis of mixed dementia can only be determined by an autopsy. Because of this, researchers believe mixed dementia is more common than previously thought.
Researchers continue to study dementia to discover new ways to diagnose and manage the condition. We at Homestead at Hamilton understand the importance of providing a comfortable environment for individuals with memory impairments. That’s why our team specializes in Hamilton Township memory care. Contact us to learn more about our community or to schedule a tour.