Thinking About Dementia
If your friend or loved one is living with dementia, they’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 47 million people worldwide have some form of dementia. The condition affects an estimated five to six percent of the world’s population aged 60 and above, and almost 10 million new cases are diagnosed each year.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a progressive brain condition that causes memory loss, impaired thinking, and changes in behavior to the extent where it interferes with daily life. It is a syndrome, not a disease, although it can be caused by diseases.
The early signs of dementia are usually mild. You may notice your loved one having memory loss, confusion, trouble speaking, or even showing personality changes. If you are concerned that s/he is facing dementia, experts recommend wasting no time in seeking a professional evaluation. The doctor may order a complete medical examination, including medical history, and conduct a battery of tests to get a complete picture of the patient’s physical and cognitive health, and pinpoint or eliminate underlying issues.
If the diagnosis is dementia, the symptoms will worsen over time. There are medications that can ameliorate some of the symptoms, but there is currently no cure. Memory care and support will become an increasingly important part of your lives.
Kinds of dementia
Dementia is most widespread among the elderly population, although it can affect young people as well. That’s because not all types of dementia are caused by age-related symptoms. Treatment depends on the type of dementia the individual has. Here are some of the most common forms of dementia, courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting some 60-80 percent of cases. Patients experience protein deposits and nerve cell damage in the brain, causing progressive difficulty with memory, confusion, communication, judgment, behavior, walking, and swallowing. The disease can begin well before symptoms emerge.
- Vascular dementia accounts for about 10 percent of dementia cases and stems from blocked or damaged blood vessels, leading to a stroke or bleeding in the brain. Symptoms include impaired decision-making, judgment, and organizational ability.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) results when abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies develop in the frontal cortex. Often, symptoms arise early on and may include sleep problems, hallucinations, and imbalanced gait. People with DLB experience memory loss and confusion.
- Advanced Parkinson’s disease often leads to dementia. It occurs when the nerve cells in the brain responsible for producing dopamine (neurotransmitters that affect the brain’s pain and pleasure centers, among other functions) are compromised. The effects are similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s and DLB patients.
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) changes one’s behavior and personality, and can cause language problems. It usually occurs earlier in life, around age 60. People with FTD have a shorter life expectancy than those with Alzheimer’s.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a brain malfunction due to misfolded prion proteins (these are cellular glycoproteins). Changes in memory, coordination, and behavior are symptoms of CJD. It is a rapidly-progressing, fatal disease that can sometimes be transmitted by animals.
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus is caused by a buildup of fluid in the brain. Patients experience loss of memory, mobility, and continence.
- Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes protein abnormalities in the brain. Patients display involuntary movements, declining cognitive abilities, and mood changes.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome occurs with a severe vitamin B-1 deficiency, affecting the brain’s ability to produce energy from sugar. It usually results from alcohol abuse, the primary symptom being extreme memory problems.
- Mixed dementia occurs when the patient experiences more than one form of dementia.
Dementia is a public health priority. Because there is no cure, the outlook for next generations is staggering. The WHO projects that the total number of people with dementia will be near 75 million in 2030 and almost triple by 2050 to 132 million.
The impact of dementia may be global, but it may feel profoundly personal for you right now. The Memory Care Suite at Lester Senior Housing is here to help. To learn more, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or email@example.com.