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Understanding Dementia


Dementia is a condition where a person’s ability to use his or her mind is progressively impaired. Dementia itself is not a disease; it is the presence of a specific set of symptoms. Dementia affects one’s memory, judgment, cognitive, ability to care for self and ability to solve problems. It is important to note that there are over 150 types of memory loss conditions but they fall into two main groups: Irreversible and Reversible.

Irreversible forms of dementia are incurable and caused by diseases or medical conditions. The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia (stroke) and Parkinson’s Disease.

Less common forms of Dementia are Huntington’s Disease, Pick’s Disease, Frontal Lobe Dementia, Frontal Temporal Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Dementia (mad cow disease), Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, subdural hematomas, and brain tumors.

Reversible forms of dementia can be cured and may also be caused by disease or medical condition but may be temporary, if diagnosed and treated. The most common causes of reversible dementias are: Depression, Medication, Hormone or Vitamin Imbalances, Infection, Malnutrition, Congestive Heart Failure and Pain stemming from an injury or fall.

Principle Forms of Dementia

The most common forms of Dementia, in order of occurrence, are:

1. Alzheimer’s Disease (first identified in 1906 during an autopsy) is defined by the Azlheimer’s association as, “an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It accounts for 70% of all dementia cases.

2. Vascular Dementia is caused by problems associated with blood circulation inside the brain from either blood clots or sudden stroke. This situation occurs due to the break in the wall of blood vessels causing blood to enter the area where vital tissues and cells of brain reside, killing those tissues and cells. This condition requires immediate medication or treatment. Vascular Dementia can also result from poorly controlled diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 50% of vascular dementia is caused by untreated high blood pressure, accounting for about 15%-20% of dementia cases.

3. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurological degeneration caused by misfiring of neurological transmitters. It is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremors, a slowing of physical movement and, in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement. PD is both chronic and progressive.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a neurodegenerative disorder that results in progressive intellectual and functional deterioration. The progressive cognitive decline is combined with three other features: (a) obvious changes in alertness and attention (frequent drowsiness, lethargy, lengthy periods of time spent staring into space), or disorganized speech; (b) recurrent visual hallucinations, and (c) Parkinsonian motor symptoms, such as rigidity and the loss of spontaneous movement. The similarity of symptoms between DLB and Parkinson’s disease, and between DLB and Alzheimer’s disease, can often make it difficult to make a definitive diagnosis. In addition, Lewy bodies are often found in the brains of people with Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s diseases.

People suffering from dementia have individual needs that can be supported in Assisted Living communities and personal care homes that specialize in Alzheimer’s and memory support.

Individual Needs of People Afflicted with Dementia

People with dementia often want and need social contact, regular positive interactions, encouragement and reassurance. They tend to benefit from active involvement in simplified normal daily activities, but cannot relearn and need constant step-by-step guidance. Those affected by dementia require activities which keep them active mentally, physically and socially. Meeting their needs will not only help decrease anxiety but also help them sleep better at night.

 

Assisted Living Locators Atlanta can help you find the perfect “home” to help your loved one function as independently as possible with the respect and dignity they deserve. Use our Assessment Tool or Request Information to obtain information tailored for your loved one’s specific needs.