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Monday, March 9, 2009

Understand Dementia

What is Dementia?
Dementia is the gradual deterioration of mental functioning, such as concentration, memory, and judgment, which affects a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.


Who gets Dementia?


Dementia occurs primarily in people who are over the age of 65, or in those with an injury or disease that affects brain function. While dementia is most commonly seen in the elderly, it is not a normal consequence of the aging process.

What causes Dementia?

Dementia is caused by the death of brain cells. Brain cells can be destroyed by brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or strokes (called vascular or multi-infarct dementia), which decrease blood flow to the brain. Lewy body dementia is another common cause attributed to changes in brain tissue. Other causes can include AIDS, high fever, dehydration, hydrocephalus, systemic lupus erythematosus, Lyme disease, long-term drug or alcohol abuse, vitamin deficiencies/poor nutrition, hypothyroidism or hypercalcemia, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, or diseases such as Pick’s, Parkinson's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, or Huntington's. Dementia can also result from a head injury that causes hemorrhaging in the brain or a reaction to a medication.

What are the symptoms Of Dementia?

In most cases, the symptoms of dementia occur gradually, over a period of years. Symptoms of dementia caused by injury or stroke occur more abruptly. Difficulties often begin with memory, progressing from simple forgetfulness to the inability to remember directions, recent events, and familiar faces and names. Other symptoms include difficulty with spoken communication, personality changes, problems with abstract thinking, poor personal hygiene, trouble sleeping, and poor judgment and decision making. Dementia is extremely frustrating for the patient, especially in the early stages when he or she is aware of the deficiencies it causes. People with dementia are likely to lash out at those around them, either out of frustration or because their difficulty with understanding makes them misinterpret the actions of others. They become extremely confused and anxious when in unfamiliar surroundings or with any change in routine. They may begin a task, such as cooking, then wander away aimlessly and completely forget what they had been doing. Dementia is often accompanied by depression and delirium, which is characterized by an inability to pay attention, fluctuating consciousness, hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. People in advanced stages of dementia lose all control of bodily functions and are completely dependent upon others.

How is Dementia diagnosed?

Dementia is diagnosed through a study of the patient’s medical history and a complete physical and neurological exam. The doctor will speak with those close to the patient to document a pattern of behavior. He or she will also evaluate the patient’s mental functioning with tests of mental status, such as those that require the patient to recall words, lists of objects, names of objects, and recent events. Diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, x-rays, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or computed tomography (CT) scans, can help determine the cause of the dementia.

What are the treatments for Dementia?

In some instances, treating the cause of dementia may successfully reverse some or all of the symptoms. This is the case when the cause is related to a vitamin/nutritional deficiency, tumor, alcohol or drug abuse, reaction to a medication, or hormonal disorder. When dementia is related to an irreversible destruction of brain tissue, such as with Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, or multiple strokes, treatment involves improving the patient’s quality of life as much as possible. This includes maintaining a stable, safe, supportive environment and providing constant supervision. While this may be done in the home, people in the advanced stages of dementia may require round-the-clock care in a long-term healthcare facility. It is important to provide the patient with structured activities and avoid disruptions to his or her daily routine. Many patients enjoy therapeutic activities, such as crafts or games, designed specifically for people with dementia. Some medications, such as donepezil and tacrine, have been effective in improving the mental functions of those in the beginning stages of dementia. Patients with hallucinations and delusions may also be treated with antipsychotic drugs, while antidepressant medications are used to treat depression.

Self-care tips

There is currently no known way to prevent dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease. You can decrease your risk of dementia associated with stroke by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, following a heart-healthy diet, and controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Healthy lifestyles, including not smoking and not abusing drugs and alcohol, go a long way in keeping most people in good health. Caring for a person with dementia is stressful. It is important to learn all you can about the disease, seek the help of support groups, and find a responsible caregiver who can give you a break when needed. There are daycare programs specifically designed for patients with dementia that are good for the patient and the family.

This information has been designed as a comprehensive and quick reference guide written by our health care reviewers. The health information written by our authors is intended to be a supplement to the care provided by your physician. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.


Alzheimer's is most common form of Dementia.

10 warning signs of Alzheimer's:

1. Memory loss. Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a telephone call or playing a game.

3. Problems with language. People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth.”

4. Disorientation to time and place. People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.

5. Poor or decreased judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money to telemarketers.

6. Problems with abstract thinking. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.

7. Misplacing things. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

8. Changes in mood or behavior. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality. The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.

10. Loss of initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.


If you find anyone suffering from above memory loss please contact ARDSI and Silver Inning Foundation in India,Alzheimer's society in your country,Neurologist or Psychiatrist.


Early Detection and Good lifestyle are some of the way to delay Dementia.




1 comment:

David Tal said...

Thanks for the info. These will really help everyone who read this understand that Dementia makes it difficult for seniors to convey the whatever physical changes or discomfort they feel. People around older adults, especially those with Alzheimer's disease and Dementia, should be more sensitive to the changes and needs of these seniors.

Dementia specialist

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