About Dementia

Major Parts of the Brain
Alan Hoofring (Illustrator), NCI
Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of cognitive problems, many of which are associated with progressive memory loss.  Alzheimer's Disease is only one of many types of dementia.

A diagnosis of dementia means that a person is having problems with brain functions, which may include these and other issues:
  • Memory - loss of short-term or long-term memory
  • Language - using the wrong words
  • Executive functions - planning, setting goals, completing steps of a job
  • Sense of time and place
Some Causes of Dementia
  • Stroke
  • Head injury
  • Substance abuse
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Lewy Body Disease
  • Low levels of vitamin B12 and folate
  • Brain and spinal cord infections
Detecting Dementia
Dementia may start showing up when things that should be current or recent memories can not be recalled. A person who is dealing with this might not realize at first that anything is amiss. After all, if they can't remember the fact that they forgot something, it won't bother them. But family members may become upset or worried when a person who has previously been dependable is no longer sticking to a schedule, eating regularly, or remembering how to drive around familiar routes. Short-term memory is quite important for everyday life, but I never appreciated that until Dad needed to live with me. Nowadays his long-term memory is also fading bit by bit.

Treatment and Progression of Dementia
Some conditions that mimic dementia can be cured, if they are properly diagnosed and treated. But for true dementia there is no cure. Treatment goals include slowing down the progression of symptoms and preserving quality of life. Drugs can be given that help the patient to manage or delay the advance of the disease. Occupational therapy may also help.
Dementia is a degenerative disease - but not every patient follows the same pattern. Some people have a rapid experience of memory loss, while others gracefully slow down and lose bits of memory as if misplacing random pages from a book of memorandums. No two patients are just alike.

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