Dementia is a blanket term used to describe brain disorders involving a decline in memory, language, problem solving and executive function.
Although dementia can occur at any age, it affects mainly the elderly. It may be reversible or irreversible.
The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disease.
It is important to recognize the signs/symptoms of dementia so as to get appropriate help as soon as possible. These symptoms may vary from person to person but in general these are the common findings among people living with dementia;
In the Early stage:
- The individual could have problems with their recent memories (like forgetting where they put things, finding their way around) and learning new things
- Have difficulty finding the words they wish to use
- Family/friends may notice a change in personality and mood swings.
Usually at this stage, the individual’s social ability isn’t affected but family and friends notice a more volatile emotional state.
As the disease progresses, the following symptoms develop:
- Patients could wonder off
- They could become aggressive, easily agitated and uncooperative
- Memories are lost but some are still intact
- Will need help with day to day activities such as bathing, eating, getting dressed
- They are at an increased risk of accidental falls as a result of confusion
- Disorganized sleep patterns
- The patients have difficulty walking
- Difficulty feeding themselves and performing other basic activities
- The could become malnourished and develop bed sores due to their dependence of others for care.
- Death is usually from infections
As I mentioned earlier, dementia may be reversible or irreversible depending on the cause. It is therefore important to recognize the signs early so that if the patient’s dementia stems from a reversible cause, it could be cured before if becomes irreversible. An irreversible cause can also be managed at its early stages to slow down its progression.
Studies have shown that several things reduce the risk of developing dementia/cognitive decline). Some of these include
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (Diet and exercise)
- Keeping the brain active (continual learning, intellectual & social relationships)
- Reducing risk of head trauma (e.g. Wearing helmets while biking)
- Manage health problems like diabetes and hypertension