Dementia refers to a loss of mental function which compromises a person’s cognitive thinking. It results in declining memory and linguistic skill as well as behavioural changes. It is a progressive disease caused by brain damage. This means that the symptoms and effects will progressively worsen over time. The effects can range from physical or psychological and can vary widely from person to person.
Depending on the age and the advancing dementia, a person can also suffer from other medical problems associated with dementia, including –
- Fits – A fit might involve repetitive hand or arm movement, or becoming rigid, clenching teeth, jerking and even temporarily stopped breathing, caused by a burst of electrical activity in brain It is one of the side-effects of dementia. Learning the basic technique to manage the episode can help you take control of the situation. Close monitoring of brain heath and regular check-up can help avoid the extreme episodes.
- Loss of muscular co-ordination – With the advancing dementia, the person faces problems with co-ordination needed to complete even the basic tasks he has done a million times before. Things like fastening a button, switching on a light, picking up something or even walking becomes difficult without help. Although there is nothing wrong with the body, the brain cannot transmit the signals to move them. This problem is sometimes called “apraxia”. A caregiver or nursing facility can be help in assisting them to carry out daily tasks at their own pace.
- Pressure sores – People with dementia remain seated in a chair or lying in bed for long periods of time without moving. This causes pressure sores or bed sores on an area of the skin that gets damaged due to prolonged pressure and friction. They can appear on any part of the body and can be particularly painful and unpleasant for the patient; hence it is important to prevent them from occurring. Pressure sores can be treated and prevented with physiotherapy and physical exercise.
- Incontinence – At some stage, a patient may suffer from urinary incontinence or wetting due to loss of muscular control, disorientation, communication problems or memory loss. The experience is distressing and embarrassing. It becomes increasingly difficult to manage it. Paying careful attention to the patient and making the washroom easily identifiable can reduce the number of accidents or unpleasant events.
A person with dementia may suffer from multiple medical conditions and hence need up-close assistance. It is important to make them comfortable and encourage them to speak up to share their problems for providing better care.