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About Dementia

About Dementia

Dementia is characterized by a loss of cognitive function and a change in behavioral abilities that negatively impact a person’s ability to complete normal daily tasks. Anyone experiencing the symptoms associated with dementia should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible. After reviewing your medical history and evaluating your current symptoms, your doctor will assess your memory impairment, determine difficulties with thinking skills, identify any behavioral changes and judge functional abilities. They may also run tests to rule out other potential causes for your symptoms.

There are many types of dementia, some more common than others. The most common type, making up 60-70% of all dementia cases, is Alzheimer’s disease. Because dementia can affect each person differently, it’s important to gather as much information as possible to gain a better understanding if you, a family member or a friend has been diagnosed.

Rather than being a specific disease, dementia refers to a group of conditions that cause impairment of at least two brain functions such as judgment, language skills, visual perception or memory loss. Although a person may experience some problems and difficulties when the condition is in its early stages, they’re generally still able to function and live independently. In fact, dementia may be present long before it’s actually perceived. As the condition progresses, however, a person eventually must rely completely on others to assist them with the most basic of activities.

People with dementia may experience difficulties in completing daily activities such as following a recipe or remembering where they put things. They may become disoriented and lost, even in their own neighborhood. Although dementia is more common as people get older (half of all people age 85 and older may have some form of dementia), dementia is not the normal process of getting older. If you or a family member experience any of the signs or symptoms associated with dementia, it’s important to get a medical evaluation as soon as possible. It should be noted that some causes of dementia can be reversible andshould be treated in a timely manner.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms develop when healthy nerve cells in the brain stop functioning, lose connections with other nerve cells or die. Although everyone experiences the loss of neurons as they age, the loss experienced with dementia is far greater than normal.

Since the cause or causes of dementia can vary, it’s easy to understand that the symptoms can manifest differently as well. However, there are common symptoms a person should look for that signal the presence of dementia. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Memory loss – often one of the first symptoms of dementia
  • Language and communication difficulties – problems finding the right words during a conversation
  • Behavior changes – acting differently or out of character
  • Sleep disturbances –trouble sleeping, waking frequently through the night
  • Sundowning – symptoms like agitation or confusion at the end of the day
  • Experience mental health issues – increased anxiety and depression
  • Hallucinations – changes in the way they view the world around them

To make a diagnosis, a medical professional looks for two or more functions to be impaired and negatively impacting a person’s life. These include:

  • Memory
  • Communication skills
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Focus and attention
  • Visual perception
  • Disorientation

When a doctor can determine the presence of dementia, but not the specific type, they may refer you to a neurologist for further diagnostics.

 

Treatment & Care of Dementia

Since treatment is based on the type of dementia and its associated symptoms, it can vary from person to person. Treatments may include (but are not limited to):

  • Prescription medications to improve dementia symptoms and to address mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Vitamins to address deficiencies
  • Discontinuance of medications to reduce symptoms that cause or contribute to dementia
  • Occupational therapy to improve independence and decrease disability

 

Types of Dementia

Understanding types of dementia, treatment and causes is important if you or a family member are living with the condition. Below you will learn about three of the most common types of dementia and their differences as you explore supportive care options.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is progressive and incurable. Typically, an individual will begin experiencing symptoms after the age of 60. However, the disease is often present long before symptoms are noticeable. Alzheimer’s can take 8 to 10 years to progress to its worst stage. The goal of treatment is to slow this progression.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, difficulty solving problems and completing tasks, trouble with writing and misplacing objects. This form of dementia is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia can result from a stroke, meaning symptoms may appear suddenly. Specifically, this form of dementia occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include disorientation, vision problems and confusion. Depending on which area of the brain is affected by insufficient blood flow, memory loss may also occur.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins, known as Lewy bodies, in the brain’s cortex. Lewy bodies lead to damage in areas of the brain responsible for functioning. DLB is a progressive form of dementia, and treatment aims to reduce symptoms.

Symptoms of DLB include hallucinations, difficulty walking, sleep and mood changes and memory loss. Lewy bodies can also be present in other brain disorders.

 

Learn More About Dementia

There are various other forms of dementia, including mixed dementia. This form of dementia means an individual has abnormalities of more than one form of dementia.

At Tessera of Westchase, we pride ourselves on providing superior care for individuals with dementia-related impairments. That’s why we specialize in memory care, offer specialized memory care programs and provide residents a comfortable and safe environment. Contact us to learn more about our Westchase FL memory care community or to schedule a tour.

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