What is Dementia?

December 19, 2014

Those with significant memory loss may have a condition often referred to as dementia. Dementia is not a disease but a group of symptoms that include memory loss, confusion, and loss or decrease in cognitive skills such as judgment, problem-solving, decision-making. These symptoms must be consistent and severe enough to affect day-to-day functioning to be considered a dementia. There are a number of different conditions and diseases that can cause dementia. 

Alzheimer’s Disease:

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Currently four million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. At present, there is no clinical test to identify Alzheimer’s, and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease can only be confirmed through examination of brain tissue that is generally done at autopsy. However, advanced technology as well as research has enabled health care professionals to recognize alterations in brain tissue and activity as well as identify certain patterns of behavior that often suggest Alzheimer type symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease which is often described in stages--early, middle, and late. Currently there is no cure, but there are medications available which work to slow the disease process and assist individuals in maintaining their current level of functioning for longer periods of time. For more information on current research and medications please visit: www.alz.org or www.mayoclinic.com

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease:

  • Recent memory loss (short term memory loss)

  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks

  • Problems with language

  • Disorientation of time and place

  • Poor or decreased judgment

  • Problems with abstract thinking

  • Misplacing things

  • Changes in mood or behavior

  • Changes in personality

  • Loss of initiative

*Developed and reproduced with permission of the Alzheimer’s Association

Multi-Infarct dementia:

Multi-Infarct dementia is also referred to a vascular dementia. It is as a deterioration of cognitive abilities and at times physical symptoms such as weakness in limbs (generally on one side of body), slurred speech, and facial droop. These symptoms are caused by multiple strokes (infarcts) or a break in blood vessels that cause bleeding to occur in the brain. Because strokes can occur anywhere within the brain, signs and symptoms will vary from person to person. For example, if a stroke occurs in the area of the brain responsible for memory, then memory loss may be observed. If a stroke occurs in the area of the brain responsible for speech then difficulties with speech will be observed. Multi-infarct dementia can be diagnosed through a neurological evaluation and brain scanning techniques.

Though Multi-infarct dementia is not curable or reversible, rehabilitation services can help people relearn and regain skills that were affected. In addition, by choosing to live a healthy lifestyle one may reduce their risk of having a stroke. Maintaining a healthy and stable diet, weight, blood pressure, regular exercise routine, and avoiding smoking one can decrease their risks for future strokes.

For more information contact the American Stroke Association www.strokeassociation.org

Parkinson’s Disease:

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the central nervous system. Currently 1.5 million Americans are affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Symptoms often associated with this disease include tremors, stiffness in limbs and joints, difficulty with speech, limited facial expressions, difficulty initiating spontaneous movement such as walking. Those with Parkinson’s display a limited amount a brain substance known as dopamine. Dopamine works within the central nervous system to control muscle activity. When an individual has a decreased amount of dopamine their body responds with the symptoms mentioned above. Those that live with Parkinson’s can develop memory loss and confusion as the disease progresses.

Presently, there are medications and treatments that help to decrease the symptoms but they do not provide a cure.

For more information please contact the American Parkinson’s Disease Association www.apdaparkinson.org.

Other conditions that can cause dementia:

There are a number of other diseases and conditions that can cause dementia including but not limited to:

  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Pick’s Disease
  • Lewy Body
  • AIDS
  • Prolonged kidney dialysis
  • Facts about dementia and the diseases that cause them:
  • Diagnosis is key; allowing for initiation of possible treatments and opportunities to plan for the future (See For the Caregiver)
  • Most of the diseases that cause dementia are progressive in nature
  • Change is a common factor in all these diseases

Unfortunately each individual progresses through their dementia in their own way and time. Caregivers must anticipate change and understand that there is no set time line in which the change will occur.

Though caring for someone with a dementia related illness can be a challenging journey, you do not have to do it alone. Let Emerald Crest Senior Services assist you. For more information contact Admissions.

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