Every year, doctors diagnose over three million people with dementia. However, many remain unaware of this ailment.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an effect caused by mental illness, injury, vitamin deficiency, and old age. Though treatment can reverse some variations of dementia—especially when caused by drug and alcohol use—most cases are permanent and vary in severity.
Diagnosing Dementia at Home
The Guide to Understanding Dementia, developed by John Hopkins Medicine, is a great tool. With this simple guide, you can to assess whether your loved one experiences everyday forgetfulness, severe memory loss, or dementia.
Normal, Age-Related Memory Loss:
- Occasionally forgets to run an errand
- Briefly forgets an acquaintance’s name
- May forget an event from the distant past
- Becomes disoriented while driving
Memory Loss in Mild Cognitive Impairment:
- Begins to forget important events and appointments
- Frequently forgets people’s names and is slow to recall them
- May forget recent events or newly learned information
- May more frequently become lost
- May have trouble understanding and following a map
- Loses sense of time
- May forget or not recognize close friends and family
- Short-term memory is severely impaired
- Becomes easily disoriented or lost in familiar places
Whether or not you use The Guide to Understanding Dementia, you must seek the help of your doctor to receive a formal diagnosis. No amount of research can supplement the advice of your physician whose expert opinion will steer you toward the proper treatment.
Symptoms of Dementia
An individual with dementia can experience a range of symptoms that vary depending on the associated disease. These symptoms can be cognitive, behavioral, muscular, psychological, or mood altering. Examples include:
- Cognitive – Inability to speak or understand, mental confusion, memory loss, or mental decline.
- Muscular – Poor sense of balance
- Psychological – Depression or even paranoia
- Behavioral – Restlessness or irritability
What Is the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Many people use dementia and Alzheimer’s as interchangeable terms. Although they share similarities, you should keep a few important differences in mind.
Dementia is a set of symptoms whereas Alzheimer’s is a disease that can cause dementia. If the cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s, then the effects are unfortunately irreversible. In contrast, mild forms of dementia caused by a vitamin deficiency can be temporary.
Types of Dementia
The following diseases can cause or contribute to dementia:
- Vascular dementia – Brain damage or inefficient blood flow to the brain cause this common form of dementia.
- Lewy body dementia – This disease only affects 10 percent of individuals with dementia and is often linked with old age. Lewy bodies are “abnormal clumps of protein that have been found in the brains of people with Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.”
- Frontotemporal dementia – Most varieties of dementia affect seniors, but frontotemporal dementia can occur at a younger age. This disease results from a cessation of the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes—an area most associated with language, personality, and behavior.
Living with Dementia
Researchers continue to work to uncover the mysteries of dementia and experiment to find solutions. With a progressive plan that consists of a physician’s diagnosis, a balanced diet, exercise, and plenty of social interaction, you can minimize the effects of your loved one’s dementia and offer them a higher quality of life.