Firstly, what is Dementia? With age comes the tendency to forget things. Many of us may from time to time, forget our neighbor’s name or the items to purchase at the grocery store. Recounting a story or event takes more effort and we wonder if this is part of normal aging.
Verbal pauses become more and more common as older adults take a few extra minutes to remember what they were trying to say or to accurately recall some past details about an occurrence. Simple forgetfulness is an unavoidable but manageable part of older adults.
Dementia is simply the deterioration of the mental condition. It is a physical condition that erodes a person’s mental capacities. It ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect an afflicted person’s memory and ability to reason, ultimately leaving them completely dependent on a full-time caregiver who can provide constant medical attention and supervision for basic activities of life. It can be considered as a non-specific illness syndrome where the areas of the brain concerned with memory, language, attention and problem solving are severely affected.
Causes of Dementia?
Medically speaking, Dementia is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Depending on the area of the brain that’s affected by the damage, dementia can affect people differently and cause different symptoms making them occur in various types. Dementias are often grouped by what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the part of the brain that’s affected.
Some diseases look like dementia, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or vitamin deficiencies, and they might improve with treatment. Some persons usually mistake dementia for delirium (a mental state in which you are confused and not able to think or speak clearly) but Depression and psychosis can be used for differentiating dementia and delirium.
Taking time to educate yourself about the basics of the specific type of dementia will give you knowledge or what to expect and take some of the mystery out of this disease. Learning about different types of dementia is important because each one has its own set of characteristics.
Types of Dementia
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia and they include:
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia frequently seen in the age group of 65 years or above. The disease causes a gradual decline in the cognitive ability of an individual within 7-10 years and nearly all brain functions associated with memory, movement, language, judgment, behavior and abstract thinking are badly affected. Two chief abnormalities of the brain are typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease namely, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Early symptoms of the disease are identified by memory impairment, subtle changes in personality and judgment inabilities. As the disease progresses, symptoms associated with memory and language become worse and the individual finds difficulty in performing daily activities.
- Vascular dementia is the second most common. It is caused by poor blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function normally. Vascular dementia can be caused by any number of conditions that narrow the blood vessels, including stroke, diabetes, and hypertension.
- Lewy body dementia is a progressive type of dementia i.e. abnormal structures in some of the nerve cells in the brain. The major symptom related to this type of dementia is visual hallucinations which may grow to confusion, tremor and memory loss. It is characterized by abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies that develop in nerve cells in the brain stem. This disrupts the brain’s ability to function normally and impairs cognition and behavior. Like Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, It is not reversible and there is no known cure.
- Early dementia is a term used to describe people who are under the age of 65 with any form of dementia. The major symptoms include loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills, and normal emotional reactions.
Apart from the above-listed types of dementia, there are still others including Frontotemporal Dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Dementia, Parkinson’s disease Dementia, Huntington’s disease and so on.
Symptoms of Dementia
For a person to receive a diagnosis, they would usually experience two or more of these symptoms, and the symptoms would be severe enough to interfere with their daily life.
- Memory Loss:
The trouble with memory can be an early symptom of dementia. The changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. A person with dementia may find it difficult to recall information they have recently learned, such as dates or events, or new information. Memory loss isn’t necessarily caused by dementia; people temporarily forget something frequently for a short period as they age but later recall them since their memory loss isn’t caused by dementia.
There is also a gradual decline in thought and other basic mental activities. In the beginning, this decline can be slow, sometimes unnoticeable, occurring over months or years.
- Misplacing items:
Relating to short-term memory, a person with the disease may put items in places and then have trouble retracing his or her steps to find the item.
- Change in mood:
Mood swing is also very common with dementia. , it isn’t always easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change from someone else. Along with the mood swing, you might notice a swift shift in your normal personality for instance from being reserved to being out-spoken and this usually affects the way you judge.
- Being repetitive:
As a result of short term memory or memory loss or change in general behavior. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively.
- Become Anti-social:
A person with dementia may become uninterested in socializing with other people, whether in their home life or at work. They become uninterested in conversation or any social gathering. They do not pay attention when others are speaking to them. They may stop doing hobbies or sports that involve other people.
- Difficulty in understanding visual information:
Someone with dementia is usually challenged with visual information. They find it hard to read and write, judge distance or even differentiate between colors.
In an early-stage diagnosis, you are still mentally alert enough to understand the disease and its possible impacts. Though it may take time to accept the diagnosis, you still have the mental capacity to understand the impact of dementia. You should start preparing and planning for the years ahead.