Dementia is described as a loss of mental function, thinking, memory, and reasoning that interferes with a person’s daily life. Dementia is not a disease in and of itself but rather a group of symptoms and depending on the cause can sometimes be cured. Dementia is usually linked to diseases that cause degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the brain or disease of blood vessels. The most common cause of Dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which is incurable but there are many other causes such as: severe depression, substance abuse, combinations of prescription medications, brain tumors, metabolic disorders, infections, and etc. Treating these disorders can result in a cure for an individual’s Dementia.
Symptoms vary with each individual in connection with the cause for the dementia. Common symptoms include changes in: personality, sleep pattern, language, memory, motor skills, recognition of family or objects, and problem solving. Sometimes a person will experience seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, anxiety, irritability, withdrawal from socializing, become self-centered, signs of confusion, sometimes incontinence and swallowing problems.
Getting a diagnosis
If your loved one shows some of these symptoms be sure to speak to their doctor about your concerns. Persons with Dementia may not realize the severity of their condition. The doctor’s first assessment should include a focused history, a physical examination, a functional status assessment, and a mental status assessment.
The goal of treatment is to treat the cause or to control the symptoms. Changing medications or treating the contributing conditions can often improve mental function.
Treatment depends on the condition causing dementia. Long-term treatment can include:
- Adult Day Care
- Nursing Home
- Home Health
To help your loved one remain oriented to their environment you can try:
- having familiar object or people around
- keep lights on at night
- provide cues to keep them in reality
- reinforce appropriate behaviors and discourage inappropriate or dangerous behaviors
- keep an activity schedule to make your loved one feel safe and secure
Support groups sometimes help by talking things over with other people and families who are coping with Dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Financial and medical planning should be conducted before the dementia worsens so that your loved one can help decide where they will live if they become unable to care for themselves.
It is also important to think about certain legal matters. An attorney can give legal advice to help families plan for the future. A special document called an advance directive lets others know what you would like them to do if you become unable to think clearly or speak for yourself.