Families – Understanding Dementia

Written by on September 7, 2012 in Health - No comments | Print this page

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Dementia is a broad term that describes impairment of brain function commonly characterized by memory loss, disorientation and loss of varied cognitive skills. Individuals suffering from dementia also usually have alterations in communication skills and experience personality changes. Dementia symptoms might appear suddenly or progress over a number of years. Depending on causative factors, dementia may or may not be reversible.

Dementia Symptoms

While many people experience a slight decline in mental function with age, individuals diagnosed with dementia exhibit very different symptoms. The memory loss experienced with dementia may include no longer recognizing the time of day, seasons of the year or other current events. They lose concept of time. Individuals may not recognize familiar people and places. Individuals having dementia lose the cognitive ability required for performing normal daily activities that include dressing, bathing, toileting and food preparation.

Mental deficits also commonly affect communication skills. Individuals might continually return to topics of conversation or ask the same questions repeatedly. Other indications often include losing the ability to find words for common objects. Not comprehending the difference between day and night, dementia patients often display alterations in sleep patterns. Personality changes might include irrational paranoia and increased irritability.

Causative Factors

Malnutrition, dehydration or vitamin and mineral deficits may progress to dementia. Chronic alcohol and substance abuse might also create symptoms. Certain prescription medications may affect mentation. Numerous treatable medical conditions might contribute to the disorder including systemic bacterial, fungal or viral infections.


Heart disease and vascular disorders inhibit blood and oxygen flow to the brain causing mental malfunction. Kidney, liver, thyroid and pancreatic disorders that include diabetes may progress if left untreated and eventually affect cognitive ability. Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s chorea and Parkinson’s disease are irreversible conditions that cause dementia by destroying neurons and transmission pathways.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing and possibly reversing the effects of dementia requires a thorough physical examination that often includes various blood tests, urine samples and imaging studies. Health care providers often perform verbal and cognitive assessments that determine the degree of dementia. Treating underlying conditions often reverses the effects of dementia. When the condition occurs because of untreatable circumstances, physicians focus on symptom control.

Patients may require anti-anxiety, antipsychotic or mood stabilizing medications that relieve behavioral symptoms. Pharmaceutical companies manufacture some medications specifically designed to slow the progression of dementia symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and similar disease processes. Counseling and support systems help families cope with loved ones diagnosed with irreversible dementia.

This is a guest post.  This article comes from Nisha representing mha.org.uk. Feel free to visit our site for more information on care homes in Southampton, Wales and Bristol.

Image by Stuart Miles: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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