Essential Signs Everyone Must Know About Dementia!
In today’s topic, I’m going to give an overview of the essential signs everyone must know about dementia. Do you have a family member who tends to repeat herself? Does she tell you the same story over and over again as if it’s for the first time? Are you having trouble with memory? Are you having trouble finding simple words? Or are you getting lost in familiar surroundings? I’ll discuss the types, the signs, and the staging. Keep reading.
What is dementia?
When a person has dementia, he or she has problems not only with memory loss but also with judgment and reasoning. People with dementia typically have memory loss, and they also have difficulty in at least one other area of cognitive function. So, a patient with dementia may have memory loss plus difficulty with planning or executive function. By this, I mean a problem with carrying out complex tasks that have multiple steps.
For example, if you have a family member who is typically a really good cook, if they have dementia and problems with executive functioning, they may have trouble following the multiple steps of cooking. This multitasking may be a problem, that’s executive function.
– A person with dementia may also have problems with visual and spatial skills, and they may get lost in very familiar surroundings.
– Another issue with dementia, in addition to memory loss, is issues with writing and speaking coherently.
– They can also have problems with judgment.
– A patient who is typically very sound may begin to exhibit poor judgment in addition to memory loss. So, dementia is not just memory loss, it’s difficulty with at least two areas of cognitive function.
What are the types of dementia?
A common question I get is what is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? This is a good question.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, so dementia is the big overriding umbrella term.
Alzheimer’s is one of the many types of dementia. Now, with Alzheimer’s, it is the most common type of dementia. It is the most common, and Alzheimer’s can be characterized by certain plaques or protein deposits in the brain called beta-amyloid. In Alzheimer’s patients, there is also a loss of nerve cells or neurons in the brain, and they can also get these tangled, disorganized protein masses in the brain.
2. vascular dementia
In vascular dementia, parts of the brain have blood vessels with reduced flow or blood flow. Patients who commonly have vascular dementia have also had strokes, and some risk factors for vascular dementia include hypertension and diabetes.
3. Parkinson’s disease
In Parkinson’s disease, patients tend to have tremors or shakiness. They also tend to have very stiff, rigid body movements. This is in addition to any problems with memory loss and cognitive function.
4. Lewy bodies
In this dementia, there are these abnormal proteins that form in the brain cells called Lewy bodies. In dementia with Lewy bodies, patients tend to have very vivid imaginations, and they may even act out their dreams. Now, this can be very frightening for the family and it could be dangerous to the patient.
5. Frontotemporal dementia
What are the causes of dementia?
Well, I just reviewed some of the abnormal proteins and the physiologic brain abnormalities that may be associated with dementia. But now, I’ll talk about the risk factors.
– Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia.
The more advanced the age, the more likely one is to have dementia. _ – Family history is a risk factor for dementia. If you have a family member, particularly a first-degree relative like a parent or sibling with dementia, and especially if that family member developed dementia before the age of seventy, then you are at a much higher risk of developing dementia.
– Other risk factors for developing dementia include having hypertension, diabetes, and smoking cigarettes.
Some studies suggest that there are things you can do, certain lifestyle habits that will reduce your risk of developing dementia. If you are physically active, if you involve yourself in regular exercise, that’s believed to potentially reduce your risk for dementia.
Also, if you keep your mind engaged, if you stay mentally engaged, if you do crossword puzzles, if you read, if you do things that challenge your thinking, challenge your mind, it’s believed that that can reduce your risk of developing dementia.
– A healthy diet
Healthy diets are believed to reduce your risk of developing dementia. And if you stay socially connected with others.
How do you recognize some of the early signs of dementia?
Now, if you are a person who sometimes forgets where your keys are or you lose your phone easily or you have trouble remembering certain names or certain words that used to come to you quickly, that does not necessarily mean that you have dementia. Some of this may be age-related, but a little forgetfulness in and of itself does not necessarily mean that you have dementia.
Asking the same question over and over again and not realizing it, telling the same story to the same people over and over and not realizing it.
– Losing the ability to plan and execute functions.
If you were a great cook before, you may be unable to execute the meal and can’t remember all the steps. If you were an organized person with your finances before, you may no longer be able to balance a checkbook. So, the loss of this executive function is an early sign of dementia.
– Loss of short-term memory
So, if you have a family member and you think they may have dementia, pay attention. See if they tend to forget things that happened a week ago, a few days ago, or even an hour ago. Yet, if you ask them about a long-term memory, they’ll be able to tell you all the details.
They may not remember what they did yesterday, but they can tell you exactly what they wore, and what they were doing 50 years ago. So, a loss of short-term memory while still being able to hold on to a lot of those long-term memories can be another sign of dementia.
– Personality change
If your family member with dementia was once a very pleasant, friendly person, that family member may become very aggressive and angry. Or if you had a family member who now has dementia, they may once have been a very happy, very social person, but now that family member has become depressed and withdrawn. So personality change is one of the later signs of later stages of dementia.
– Patients tend to lose the ability to do the activities of daily living
A person with late-stage dementia may no longer remember how to brush his or her teeth, and may not remember how to comb his or her hair. That person with late-stage dementia may no longer be able to shower. Also, incontinence can be a sign of late-stage dementia.
Though there is no definitive cure for dementia, there are certain treatments and certain medications which can help to slow the progression of dementia, such as cholinesterase inhibitors.
Bottom line, if you are concerned about a family member or yourself, please consult your primary care physician. There are certain tests that your physician can do that can screen you to see if there is any cause for concern about dementia. Depending on what is found, you may be referred to a neurologist or someone who specializes in dementia. This is my overview of dementia.
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