What is dementia is a loss of intellectual ability that involves the deterioration of memory and impairment of thought and speech and interferes with daily activities? It mainly occurs in the elderly, although the disease can arise at any age, even childhood.
What is dementia?
Sufferers have difficulty learning new information and have poor mastery of basic common knowledge, such as the date or Prime Minister’s name. Recent memory is affected more severely than remote memory.
For example, some patients fail to remember what happened yesterday but can recall distant events. Impairment of abstract thinking involves an inability to define concepts or find similarities and differences between objects or words.
For example, the sufferer may be unable to explain the differences between a car and a train. Some people with dementia demonstrate poor judgment in dealing with personal and job-related issues. They may make strange decisions that contrast with past behavior.
Some people also suffer a disruption of certain brain functions that may be manifested as deterioration of language skills, inability to carry out coordinated movements, failure to recognize or identify objects, and difficulty in assembling or arranging objects. For example, having difficulty in drawing a clock.
Personality changes may include a departure from previous behavior or an accentuation of existing traits. Thus, a suspicious person may become virtually paranoid. People with mild dementia are capable of living independently, but work or social activities
Regular activities such as gardening enjoyed in familiar surroundings can provide vital stimulation and comfort for everyone in later life.
Those with severe dementia will need constant supervision. Some 20% of people aged over 75 are believed to have mild to moderate dementia. An additional 5% have severe dementia and are unable to care for themselves.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
- Disrupted short- and long-term memory.
- Loss of abstract thinking.
- Impaired judgment.
- Disruption of language skills.
- Impaired motor activity.
- Personality change.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 65% of cases in patients aged over 65. About 10% of cases are classed as multi-infarct dementia.
Here, areas of brain tissue die as a result of a stroke or series of small strokes. Long-standing high blood pressure or narrowing of the arteries increases this risk.
Alcoholism and head injury are among the most common causes of dementia in people aged under 65. Brain tumor, severe anemia, meningitis, vitamin Bi or B12 deficiency, or a hormonal disorder, such as Addison’s disease, can also bring on dementia.
Other causes include AIDS; neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and hydrocephalus; poisoning by metals such as mercury or lead and the side effects of certain drugs.
When should I see my doctor?
See your doctor if symptoms worsen or persist for longer than a week or two. Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. It may be normal to lose some acuity in short-term memory, but this slight deterioration should not interfere with regular life.
How is dementia diagnosed and treated?
Dementia must also be distinguished from depression, which can cause similar memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and a decline in mental function. However, depression often causes symptoms that are absent in dementia, such as loss of appetite and sleep disturbances.
The doctor is likely to ask about past alcohol and drug use and will conduct a physical examination. The doctor may also arrange tests including X-rays, and blood and urine studies. The doctor will look for a reversible cause.
For example, when dementia develops abruptly in a previously well-adjusted
If dementia stems from a treatable disorder, the first step is to alleviate this. If the cause is not known or untreatable, the doctor may prescribe drugs to control the symptoms.
The agitation, wandering and paranoia associated with dementia often lessen with anti-psychotic medication.
Various drugs have been tested for their ability to improve memory and intellectual capacity, but their use is still experimental, and their effectiveness has not been proven.
The patient may be referred to a mental health professional for psychotherapy,
Family members may be frustrated or overwhelmed by the demands of tending to the patient’s needs.
What is dementia and how to help the situation?
Set up daily routines, such as taking a walk or reading a newspaper at a particular hour. A fixed schedule increases the comfortable sense of security and predictability in life.
Put up large calendars and clocks in the home and keep a diary you can refer to if you cannot recall an event from the recent past.
Ask the doctor to maintain the medication schedule as simple as possible.
Make checklists of things needing to be done each day.
Unnecessary changes of residence should be avoided. If a move is made, carers should put up family photographs, paintings and other objects from the family home to create a familiar environment.
Frequent visits by members of the family are crucial.
Constant intellectual stimulation is necessary, including access to newspapers, radio, and television.