Worldwide dementia affects around 50 million people, with nearly 10 million new cases every year. Of the varying types of dementia, 70% of people have Alzheimer’s disease. Compare this with HIV/AIDS, which affects around 35 million people. It is an epidemic of global proportions.
What is Dementia?
In its most basic terms, dementia is a decline in the performance of cognitive functions. It is a variety of brain diseases that cause gradual reduction in the abilities to think, remember, and function. The duration is often long-term.
- Alzheimer’s disease – This is the progressive deterioration of mental capacities that can occur in middle or old age.
- Vascular dementia – Caused by issues with blood supply to the brain. Sometimes resulting from minor strokes.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies – This type will show similar symptoms as Parkinson’s disease—tremors, rigid muscles, etc.—but with the addition of vivid hallucinations.
There are several more types, but they are not as common as the above three.
There are a variety of tests to determine if someone has a form of dementia. Because of the variety of types, testing for one may be ineffective if the person has another. To start, most of the time, doctors want to see symptoms that last for at least six months. This is to rule out that the symptoms could be from something else. After it has been determined that testing would be beneficial, usually a cognitive test is done. Sometimes as short as five minutes long, these tests are used to screen for the disease. Other times a questionnaire will be given to a family member of those suspected of having the disease that asks about the person’s everyday cognitive functioning.
In other cases, CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging will be performed. This will look for any abnormalities associated with the disease.
Dementia may be difficult to quantify, but there are some warning signs that may provide insight into someone who may be showing early symptoms or other related impairments.
- Confused about time – Sometimes those in the early stages of the disease will become confused about the time. This can include what day of the week it is, or when something is planned in the future.
- Confused about place – A good sign of early is a person being confused as to where they are. They may become lost or disoriented.
- Memory loss – This is probably the most common sign that a person is in the early stages of dementia. While memory loss can be normal, if it begins to affect daily life, like important dates or people, it may be a sign of dementia.
- Change in personality or mood – If someone is suddenly depressed, confused, paranoid, or anxious, this may be a good sign of dementia.
Unfortunately, there are no medications or treatments that have been shown to prevent or cure dementia. With that said, there are ways to give the sufferer the best possible life.
For example, most Bonaventure Senior Living communities have a memory care area that provides a fun and engaging atmosphere that shows respect and dignity to those that suffer from dementia. The staff receive ongoing education in order to better support those that suffer from dementia or other cognitive impairments. This can help put the sufferer and the family at ease and provide the best possible life for the one suffering from dementia.
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