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Dementia constitutes a group of symptoms showing an overall cognitive decline characterized by issues and impairment of memory, language, judgment, and behavior and is of a chronic or progressive nature.
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain as a consequence of loss of neurons or neuronal connections, with the most common cause of dementia being the destruction of cells in the brain as a result of the disease. Even though age is considered to be a strong factor of contribution to dementia, dementia problems are not restricted to senile dementia and can also be offset in younger age groups.
The symptoms of dementia become pronounced as the stages progress.
At early stages, dementia causes the emergence of symptoms such as:
At later stages, dementia causes symptoms such as:
At this stage, it becomes imperative for dementia caregivers to be present to take care of the patient’s needs. At an advanced stage of dementia, complete dependency on the caregiver is to be expected. At this stage finding someone to care for someone with dementia becomes essential or you may have to check the patients into a Dementia Rehab or assisted living facility
Neurodegeneration is the term used to signify the improper functioning of neurons. As a result of this, the neuron to neuron communication ceases to work efficiently thus affecting the processing of information in the brain resulting in dysfunction thereby leading to a possibility of Dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Vascular dementia, reactions to medications, chronic alcoholism as well as tumors in the brain can all lead to neurodegeneration and thereby cause dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia can be caused by damage in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Structural abnormalities in the brain as a result of genetic mutations can cause developmental problems and dementia.
The intake of toxins, such as lead, can lead to dementia.
Diseases affecting metabolisms such as vitamin B12 deficiency as well as disorders due to dysfunction of the thyroid, kidney, and liver can all end up causing dementia.
Now that we know what causes dementia, let us talk about dementia and its types. As mentioned above, dementia is basically a symptom particular to the disease, and types of dementia vary according to the disease-causing it.
The dementia types include:
Alzheimer’s disease – It is the most common cause of dementia and is caused by the aggregation of proteins called plaques and tangles causing the brain cells to waste away.
Lewy body dementia – It is caused by the formation of balloon-like clumps in the brain of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Lewy body dementia treatment comprises blood tests, brain scans along with several prescriptions of medications and therapy recommendations.
Vascular dementia – Another common type of Dementia is caused by damage to the vasculature that supplies blood to the brain. This type of Dementia can because due to a brain stroke as well.
Frontotemporal dementia – It is a group of dementias that are characterized by damage to the frontal and temporal areas of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia causes damage mostly in terms of speaking ability, personality, and behavior. Occupational therapy is a great way for frontotemporal dementia treatment as it aims to help the patient get back on their feet by assisting them with understanding how to do their daily tasks properly.
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning it has the potential to get worse over time. Patients with dementia problems tend to show different types of symptoms as it increases in severity. Here are the stages in which Dementia patients experience cognitive decline:
Mild Cognitive Impairment: A very common stage among the elderly population, mild cognitive impairment is a disorder where they tend to experience forgetfulness, short term memory loss and might also have trouble remembering things at all. Most patients with MCI do not progress towards dementia or any other mental impairment at all.
Mild Dementia Stage: One of the very early phases of dementia, during this stage, the patients are able to function independently. The signs and symptoms at this stage of dementia are:
Moderate Dementia Stage: At this stage, the affected patient might require assistance. Normally, family members are best suited for this task but there are also many dementia caregivers who are trained for taking care of dementia patients. At this stage, patients need care because the disease may now start to interfere with their daily tasks and activities. The symptoms and issues faced by the patients at this stage of the disease include:
Severe Dementia Stage: During the final stage of dementia, during this time, severe mental and physical problems of the patient start to be seen. These symptoms include:
Understanding these stages of dementia can help caregivers to better understand what the patient is going through. But, it should be noted that patients progress through these stages at their own rate. Timely intervention can help slow down the progression of the disease.
A proper diagnosis of dementia is required to differentiate it from other mental health disorders that may exhibit similar symptoms. Secondly, as discussed above, there are various phases of the disease. Hence, to carry out proper dementia treatment, the right diagnosis is required.
Listed below are all the ways in which dementia is diagnosed:
Sometimes, Dementia symptoms may also be caused due to two or more other diseases. Such a condition is known as Mixed Dementia. This disease is diagnosed when the doctors believe that more than two diseases are causing the symptoms. These diseases might include Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
There are two types of primary dementia treatments that are used to help manage symptoms of dementia. They include medication oriented treatment approach and non-drug therapies, here we explore the efficacy of both in managing Dementia.
Medications: The most common type of dementia is due to Alzheimer’s diseases, here is the medication that is used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
In most cases, these drugs can also be prescribed together. There can also be side effects of taking this drug. Patients and their caregivers should research about the side effects before going ahead with their medications. These medications can only be prescribed by a licensed medical professional.
Non-Drug Therapy: In the case of frontotemporal dementia treatment, occupational therapy is the best way to manage the symptoms. This type of therapy takes the help of trained dementia caregivers to help the patient get back on their feet by assisting them with understanding how to do their daily tasks like bathing, dressing or eating properly.
Mixed Approach: Lewy body dementia treatment comprises blood tests, brain scans along with prescriptions of medications as well as therapy recommendations.
There are certain lifestyle changes and even therapies that may help the patient reduce symptoms of dementia and alleviate some of the manageable complications of Dementia. Some of these include:
Changing the environment around the patient: A cluttered environment that is full of noise and overstimulation may make the patient lose focus
Modifying common daily tasks: A therapist or a healthcare provider can also be of help to assist the patient in breaking down everyday tasks like showering and dressing and eating.
Occupational therapy: There are specialized health care providers who help patients with dementia problems perform simple tasks that they may encounter at home, work, and in everyday life. It helps restore a sense of dignity in the patient.
There are several misconceptions and doubts about dementia in the elderly. Let us bust some myths and discuss some important facts about the disease.
Myth – Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the same
Fact – Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms that might occur for a lot of neurological diseases. According to researchers, there are at least 400 different types of diseases that can damage the nerve cells of the brain, most common among them being Alzheimer’s disease and hence, this one is the most heard about.
Myth – Only the elderly people are likely to develop dementia
Fact – One of the most widely prevalent myths surrounding dementia, it is not just the senile who have the likelihood of developing dementia, while of course, it is the most common in the older demographic. People in their 40s can also show symptoms of the diseases in the early stages leading to the early onset of dementia, but this only occurs when they have family members with dementia.
Myth – People who are affected with dementia don’t feel emotions
Fact – Dementia patients might understand more than they can express. The trouble with the disease is that the patients have difficulty communicating their emotions. One of the most important dementia caregiver tips is that they should directly speak with the patient and wait for them to gather their thoughts and respond to it. This might take time but in this way, they can improve their communication skills and ask for what they want.
Myth – Dementia is a natural part of aging and it happens to everybody
Fact – Ageing related memory loss and forgetfulness has nothing to do with dementia. Dementia occurs when there is an actual degradation or destruction of cells in the brain. While the elderly might be forgetful of a few things, dementia patients might forget their own family members or may have trouble doing common tasks that they have done their entire life.
Myth – The risks of dementia cannot be reduced
Fact – Again, dementia symptoms are seen when there is an actual deterioration in the brain cells. For damage of this magnitude to happen, the patient might, of course, have engaged in unhealthy habits like binge drinking for a prolonged period of time. So, dementia prevention is possible. By not smoking or drinking alcohol, taking part in exercise and physical activities and eating a balanced diet, people can ensure that they do not become a victim of dementia later in life.
Myth – Dementia is a death sentence
Fact – It is true that there is still no cure for dementia. But this does not mean that the affected individual cannot live a fulfilling life with the condition. Early diagnosis makes the situation easy for both the patient and caregiver. In this case, with the help of proper assistance, exercise, therapy, and medications, the patient can reduce the symptoms and can learn to live functional and more independent lives.
There are certain risk factors of the disease that can increase the chances of the patient to actually develop the disease later in life. Here are the risk factors that you should be aware of.
Unhealthy diet and lack of exercise: According to researchers, lack of exercise over a long period of time can increase the risk of dementia. There is no specific diet that has been known to reduce the risk of dementia in patients but it has been seen that the people who do not follow a balanced diet run a higher risk of developing the disease later in life.
Heavy alcohol use: Drinking large amounts of alcohol or binge drinking has been correlated with a higher risk of dementia.
Cardiovascular risk factors. Certain diseases such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, a build-up of fats in the artery walls (atherosclerosis) of the patient and obesity have been linked with high dementia risk/
Depression and anxiety issues. The relationship between dementia and depression is still not well-understood. But it has been seen that late-life depression might indicate the development of dementia and memory loss.
Diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes may increase the risk of the patient developing dementia later in life.
Long term smoking habits. Smoking over a long period of time might increase the risk of developing dementia and other blood vessels (vascular) diseases later in life.
Sleep apnea. People who have a habit of snoring and have episodes where they frequently stop breathing while they are asleep may have reversible memory loss in old age.
Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. Low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate may increase the risk of the patient developing dementia.
Dementia can lead to several physical and mental health complications in the elderly. Such complications include:
Poor nutrition: Many patients with dementia eventually reduce or stop eating because they face excessive trouble with chewing and swallowing food items. This, in turn, affects their nutrient intake, leading to poor nutrition-related problems.
Pneumonia: The difficulty in swallowing food leads to diseases and complications further. It increases the risk of choking or aspirating food into the lungs, which can block breathing and eventually cause pneumonia.
Inability to perform self-care tasks: With the progress of the disease, it can interfere with taking bath, dressing, brushing hair or teeth, using the toilet independently, and taking medications accurately.
Personal safety challenges: Driving, cooking, walking home or going to nearby stores are some of the daily tasks that people have to generally do alone. With dementia, the people affected cannot take care of these situations alone, leading to personal safety challenges.
Death: The later stages of dementia that occur in very old people can lead to coma or death, mostly due to the development of infection.
For the elderly, becoming a burden on their families can act as a mental pressure, often leading to further depression. Living with dementia is not easy and hence, caregivers should have a proper understanding of taking care of dementia patients and how they can enhance their quality of life.
Caring for someone with dementia requires patience and strength. Dementia caregivers should make it a priority to engage the patient in exercises, activities like singing, cooking, or painting and maintaining a calendar to jot down upcoming events and other important dates.
The human body goes through several changes at old age. It is absolutely normal for the elderly to forget a few things when they reach a certain age. The brain starts to slow down and many activities that the person would otherwise be able to do diligently might start to feel challenging.
Memory loss is also very normal. But there is a huge difference between forgetting things once in a while and forgetfulness that lasts and is a serious concern. The difference between understanding normal forgetfulness with age and dementia lies in noticing the potential red flags:
Patients or their caregivers should immediately seek help if these symptoms start to show. One of the most obvious signs is the inability to find their way in familiar settings.
Patients suffering from dementia often require the support of a caregiver throughout life to go about their daily routine. Patients who are diagnosed with dementia before attaining the age of 70 years, can go on to live for a decade or longer.
Recent studies have shown that women tend to live longer than men among those affected by this mental disorder. With proper care, support and assistance from caregivers, patients can alleviate their symptoms and live a fulfilling life.
It can be really stressful to deal with Dementia or have a loved one dealing with the illness. Seeking help and support is essential to help patients lead functional lives. If you or an elderly loved one in the family suffers from Dementia, it’s important to seek early treatment and rehabilitation. Since Dementia is a progressive disorder, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated the better are the chances of managing it successfully.
Cadabams is India’s leading Mental Health Rehab for Dementia and other serious mental illnesses. Visit our residential treatment facility for a guided tour of our Dementia treatment centre.
Call us on our mental health helpline +91 96111 94949 for further details or Dementia related emergencies.
At Cadabams, we provide clean, modern, fully furnished accommodations with all the necessary creature comforts.
Kitchen and dining hall, laundry facilities, indoor games area, yoga and meditation hall, outdoor games area for cricket, badminton, Round the clock psychiatrist and counsellor support, 24×7 ambulance on demand.
Our everyday menu is curated by Dieticians aimed at providing healthy and nutritious and tasty meals to satisfy everyone’s palate.
Recreation facilities such as TV, sports, gym, picnics and outings and more.
People with dementia might become apathetic, have problems controlling their emotions or behave inappropriately in social situations. They may see or hear things that other people do not, or have false beliefs. people with dementia usually need help from friends or relatives, including help in making decisions.
Normal brain cells are replaced with damaged tissue called plaques and tangles
Blood vessels supplying blood to tiny parts of the brain blocked starving that region of oxygen eventually leading to dead brain tissue in that region.
The problems caused by vascular dementia depends upon which part of the brain is affected but some of the general effects are
Front part of the brain affected more than other parts.
There are a group of medicines which can slow the progression of dementia.
There is some evidence that rates of dementia are lower in people who remain as mentally and physically active as possible throughout their lives, and have a wide range of different activities and hobbies: