It can be difficult handling a diagnosis of dementia in yourself or a loved one. This relatively common mental disorder affects 50 million sufferers globally. We provide you with a breakdown of important aspects to understand about the condition, including how you can identify it early and possibly slow down its progression.
What is dementia? It is a disorder that is characterized by a decrease in cognitive abilities. Various functions are disrupted, and these can impact the capacity for coping with daily tasks and interactions. Some functions that are affected are basic thinking (e.g., logic, sequences), memory recall, problem-solving and decision-making skills, and language breakdown. Relationships, feelings and consequent behaviors, and independence are also compromised.
It is important to distinguish between the normal signs of aging and dementia. The latter is caused by irregular changes to the brain and not the wear and tear of the body as one ages.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia includes all diseases that result in brain cells being damaged or destroyed. Alzheimer’s Disease is one such type of dementia. Depending on which part of the brain has been damaged, the functions usually carried out by that area are affected. Alzheimer’s Disease does its damage to the hippocampus region of the brain. Once these brain cells and connecting fibers have been damaged they fail to communicate as intended.
Dementia Risk Factors
Age is the leading risk feature for developing dementia, with more than four-fifths of cases being linked to an age over 74. From 60 years old, the risk is doubled every decade. Age is the main factor in getting Alzheimer’s disease, with a higher two-fold risk every five years over 64 than other types of dementia. Another high-risk factor is a family history of dementia. If your parent developed dementia prior to turning 80, you have double the chance of being affected.
Other factors have been linked to getting dementia. Some of these can be managed, like hypertension and diabetes, or eradicated by becoming more active after following a sedentary lifestyle, drinking in moderation or giving up alcohol, and being socially isolated.
Detecting Early Symptoms
The person with dementia is less likely to pick up the progressive symptoms leading to diagnosis than family and/or friends. These are the symptoms to look out for:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Signs of stress or agitation
- Reduction in caring for pets properly
- Repetitive speech and/or behavior
- Problems with time management
- Not managing budget
- Change in personality
- Decline in work performance
- Appearing disinterested in hobbies
- Difficulty with remembering words
- Writing and speech degeneration
Note that this list applies to new symptoms that appear suddenly or get worse progressively. For example, much younger, healthier people often misplace their keys.
You can track the seven stages of dementia online and find out how to help a parent with dementia with numerous resources. Additionally, you can access a quiz at this link to determine if your loved one or yourself has signs of dementia: https://www.belmontvillage.com/dementiaquiz/. The test can be repeated as many times as required.
Dementia can be lonely to live with. Get the best possible care for your loved one.