It is extremely difficult and stressful to know that your loved one has dementia. But understanding the disease and the condition of the person helps you improve the situation and gives you some peace of mind.
This disease is linked to the decline of cognitive function in an individual. Two or more brain functions are affected by mental impairment. Moreover, a person’s memory, behavior, language, thinking, judgment, and personality are affected by dementia.
Even though numerous injuries or illnesses cause dementia, it cannot be called a disease exactly. It is a mental impairment ranging between mild and severe. In addition, dementia can be progressive, reversible, or treatable. But, according to some health experts, dementia is an irreversible mental impairment.
Cognitive decline is the common factor among all types of dementia, which is surprisingly more than 50. To optimize the treatment for each type, it is important first to pinpoint it. Here are a few of its types.
This type is the most common among people and makes up 60% to 80% of the total diagnosed cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. So, if diagnosed in its initial stage, it can be treated and managed to help the person enjoy his life.
This type is caused by irregular changes in the blood accessed by the brain or frequent small strokes. It severely affects the person’s cognitive functioning and memory, but its severity can be reduced differently.
In this type of dementia, the previously mentioned two forms, Alzheimer’s and vascular, are combined and happen simultaneously. So, it is known to be commonly diagnosed in people in their more senior years. Besides, it is commonly indicated by slowly worsening dementia symptoms and cardiovascular disease.
This type is more commonly found in women and is known to occur in their early years. In addition, it affects a person’s behavior, orientation, and personality.
This is a rapidly progressive disease that causes involuntary movements and mental deterioration.
This disease commonly occurs during mid-life and is a degenerative and inherited disease. Besides, it causes involuntary movements.
This disease is linked with the central nervous system. It causes progressive disorder in the brain. Additionally, it is a type of dementia that develops during a prolonged Parkinson’s disease.
Lewy Body Dementia
The symptoms of this disease and Alzheimer’s are to some extent similar. In this type, a person can become fearful and experience hallucinations.
This is a disease that progresses and gets worse with time. However, there is no one significant way of progression of Dementia. Each person progresses differently through each stage. Hence, an understanding of all the stages will aid you in preparation for the future. The common stages of progression that people experience are the following:
Mild Cognitive Impairment
It is common for older people to develop MCI, and there is a possibility of it not progressing to severe mental impairment, including dementia. At this stage, a person who experiences short-term memory issues has trouble recalling words and is forgetful.
People with this stage of dementia are often capable of functioning independently. In mild dementia, a person becomes forgetful and experiences short-term lapses in memory, difficulty accomplishing intricate tasks, and solving problems. In addition, one will also undergo changes in personality such as depression and anger and will struggle to express ideas and emotions.
At this stage, dementia starts to interfere with a person’s regular activities and tasks. This makes the person require assistance. In moderate dementia, a person experiences poor judgment, memory loss mostly about the old times, and undergoes noticeable personality changes. Also, the person becomes more confused and frustrated and requires help to perform tasks such as bathing and dressing.
In severe dementia, the physical and mental symptoms get worse. The person loses control over bodily functions such as walking, eating, and urinating. Furthermore, the person even becomes unable to communicate and requires 24-hour assistance.
A healthy brain continues to develop essential connections throughout life, but its speed and mass may decline. However, injuries, diseases, and inflammation break these connections causing the death of neurons. Consequently, this can cause the onset of dementia. Therefore, the idea of completely losing yourself is traumatic, but this outcome can be altered by early intervention.
Although a lot about dementia is unclear, scientists have worked out its origin. So, they have found the cause to be a combination of lifestyle, environment, hereditary, and genetics. These causes are explained below.
- Often observed in Huntington, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells and their connections are progressively attacked by medical conditions leading to these diseases.
- Some vascular problems, including strokes, hinder the brain from receiving vital nutrients and disrupt its oxygen flow. These strokes can be prevented by abstaining from smoking, treating heart disease, and normalizing blood pressure.
- Drugs, alcohol, dehydration, and poor nutrition. Treating health issues, including vitamin deficiencies, metabolic disorders, and insulin resistance can reduce dementia.
- Frequent brain injuries and single trauma. Memory and cognitive skills can be impaired depending on where the injury has occurred in the brain.
- Lastly, the central nervous system getting affected by an illness or infection, including HIV and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Health problems can be treated, such as operable brain tumors, depression-induced dementia, kidney disease, and liver disease.
Symptoms of Dementia
With age experiencing memory lapses is common. But not all changes in memory are a symptom of dementia. Because dementia does not just affect your memory, it can also impact your personality, mood, language, executive functioning, spatial and visual skills. If a person experiences memory loss and issues in at least one of the mentioned areas, one is considered to fall under the criteria of dementia.
Some commonly observed symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory loss. The short-term memory changes, and the person starts forgetting events and dates and asks the same questions repeatedly.
- Impaired judgment. The person finds it difficult to care for an animal or pet. One also has a risk to be indulged in a scam.
- Difficulties with intricate thinking. Completing regular tasks, generating ideas, being creative, and solving puzzles become a hardship for this person.
- Faulty reasoning. It becomes difficult for a person to solve problems, follow directions or instructions, balancing and working with numbers.
- Inappropriate behavior. The person loses his inhibitions and may start to make improper remarks.
- Poor or no communication skills. The person finds it difficult to follow conversations or stories and to find words.
- Confusion and disorientation. The person finds it difficult to recognize people and starts to confuse faces, dates, and places.
- Balance, motor, and gait problems. The person loses coordination and falls easily.
- Neglect of safety and personal care. The persons start to neglect nutrition, do not wear weather-appropriate clothes, and ignores personal hygiene.
- Personality changes. The person experiences agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, sleeping problems, listlessness, or apathy and withdraws from social activities.
Treatment for Dementia
Similar medicines cannot be used to treat every type of dementia. Secondly, no treatment can cure it. Two basic treatment plans are followed to treat dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease can be treated using 2 types of medications.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: This medication can slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It increases the amount of the chemical, Acetylcholine in the body, which improves judgment and helps to form memories.
- Memantine: This medicine helps maintain the normal mental function of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, it is used in people having moderate to severe Alzheimer’s to delay the behavioral and cognitive symptoms.
A health professional can prescribe these two drugs together. There can be side effects, so it is better to understand the complications that may arise clearly.
They are done to treat the onset of dementia. Some common treatments used are:
- Modifying the surrounding environment. Overstimulation, noise, and clutter can reduce focus and concentration.
- Modifying regular work. The health care provider or the therapist can work out a manageable schedule or regular tasks, including bathing, dressing, and grooming.
- Occupational Therapy. In this type of therapy, the person is taught ways to perform activities more securely and safely, such as driving, cooking, and walking.
Prevention of Dementia
Previously, it was believed by researchers and doctors that dementia was a not curable disease that cannot be prevented. However, in recent years, new studies are performed that nullify the old perception.
In a review done in 2017, it was found that approximately one-third of the total dementia cases were a result of the individual’s lifestyle. Therefore, the researchers have derived nine factors that can probably increase a person’s chances of having dementia in a person. These factors are:
- Social isolation
- Physical inactivity
- Late-life depression
- Hearing loss
- Midlife obesity
- Midlife hypertension
- Lack of education
Lastly, researchers believe that if these factors are treated, dementia can be delayed or even prevented. The cases of dementia have a chance of tripling by the year 2050, so people must delay and prevent dementia.