19 Jan 6 Things You Need to Know About Dementia
What it is:
Dementia is not a specific disease. It is an all-encompassing term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. There are many conditions that can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia (which can occur after a stroke) are the most common.
What are the symptoms:
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and can be hard to detect, because of this, a dementia diagnosis might not be obvious at first. Early symptoms can also vary significantly from person to person but usually include:
- Memory problems, particularly remembering recent events – while some level of forgetfulness is normal, a person with dementia may forget things often or not remember at all.
- Increasing confusion and disorientation – a person with dementia may have difficulty finding their way back to a familiar place or feel confused about where they are. Sometimes they think they are living in a different timeline in their life.
- Reduced concentration – a persona with dementia may tire of some activities or require prompts to become more involved.
- Personality or behaviour changes – dementia can present itself as changes in abstract thinking. This can make finances and calculations difficult for them.
- Apathy and withdrawal or depression – everyone has their moody moments, but a person with dementia can experience rapid mood swings for no apparent reason.
- Loss of ability to do everyday tasks – people with dementia can get distracted and they may forget to crucial elements to their task.
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other and it can occur in several areas of the brain. Dementia affects people differently but when brain cells cannot communicate, thinking, feeling, and behaviour can be impacted. There is no one cause of dementia but there are risk factors as outlined by the Mayo Clinic:
- Things you can’t control – your age, family history and if you have an existing cognitive impairment.
- Things you can control – alcohol and smoking, diet, exercise, depression, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
How can I prevent dementia?
There is no way to guarantee you will be protected from dementia but there are things you can do to give yourself the best shot. According to the Mayo Clinic, this includes, keeping your mind active, being physically and socially active, quitting smoking, getting enough vitamin D, managing your blood pressure and maintaining a healthy diet. You can read the complete list here.
How is a dementia diagnosis made?
To make a dementia diagnosis, doctors first assess whether a person has any underlying conditions that could have overlapping symptoms. A media assessment for dementia generally includes a thorough patient history, a physical exam, brain scans and then a series of tests like – neurological tests, cognitive and neuropsychological tests, lab tests, a psychiatric evaluation and genetic tests.
Where can you get help
Visiting your family doctor is often the first place people who are experiencing changes in thinking, movement or behaviour go to be checked out. From there you will be referred to a specialist. Only neurologists who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system can officially diagnose dementia. Generally, their expertise is required to rule out all other potential causes. In many cases of dementia, caregivers need consistent support and help as well.
At Peachtree Senior Living, we understand your concern for your loved ones with dementia. Contact us today to learn more about our holistic approach to healthcare or to find more dementia resources in your area.