The term dementia encompasses the cluster of symptoms which are caused by disorders that negatively affects the brain. The word dementia has been derived from Latin where ‘de’ means without and ‘ment’ refers to mind.
People having dementia suffer from declining memory, reasoning, behavior, judgment and general cognitive functioning abilities. In the United States, nearly 5 million people suffer from some degree of dementia. One percent of people in the age bracket of sixty to sixty four years are afflicted with dementia. This number rises significantly to a whopping 50 percent as people advance in age.
Initially dementia was called senility and was thought to be a normal part of the natural ageing process. However recent studies have indicated that dementia happens due to multiple health complications which afflicts the elderly and in certain rare cases even younger people.
The problem of dementia is irreversible. Once dementia sets in it sets in motion certain distinct changes in the brain which cannot be reversed or stopped with even the latest medications.
Who is At Risk?
There are many health problems which can hasten the process of dementia. People with health problems like Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS and Pick disease are at a higher risk of suffering from the ill effects of dementia.
Besides the above mentioned medical conditions, chronic drug use, vascular disorder like multiple brain strokes, depression particularly chronic depression, infections of the central nervous system and accumulation of fluid inside the brain can increase the chances of people suffering from the degenerative disease called dementia.
Types of Dementia
Dementia can be categorized or classified into two broad categories based on the particular region of the brain that is afflicted. When the cerebral cortex of the brain suffers from some type of disorder, it gives rise to cortical dementias. When the regions which lie beneath the cortex are affected by some disorder, it can lead to sub-cortical dementias. When both parts of the brain region, the cortex and the sub-cortex, are affected it leads to a type of dementia which is called multi infarct dementia.
Signs of Dementia
It is very important to discern the early signs of dementia to differentiate it from other ordinary and more treatable memory problems. It is important to known that a person with dementia may or may not exhibit all of the signs which are discussed in this article. The following are some of the early warning signs dementia.
Increasing Memory Loss
One of the earliest earning signs of dementia is memory loss or memory changes. These memory changes though minor, can disrupt the course of ones daily life. As each day passes, the degree of memory loss increases. Initially it may be something as simple as misplacing a cup of coffee or a bunch of keys.
As time progresses and the problem of dementia worsen, individuals may even forget where they live. The best way to differentiate memory loss associated with dementia as against ordinary forgetfulness is that people with dementia are never able to remember what they have lost, misplaced or forgotten.
Difficulty in Performing Normal, Everyday Tasks
People with dementia have increasing problems in planning and executing everyday tasks. They also have problems in solving simple problems which can leave them feeling depressed. Let us use an example here to differentiate between ordinary memory problems and dementia. People with memory problems may serve dinner but forget to serve desert, while people with dementia may prepare dinner but will completely forget to serve it.
People with dementia have increasing difficulty with words which can leave their listeners or audience feeling befuddled. Here again we can differentiate between ordinary memory problems and dementia. While people with memory problems may have difficulty in getting the right words, individuals with dementia may have language difficulties to such an extent, that they may change the placement of words in a sentence or may sometimes even speak complete gibberish.
Perplexity about Time and Place
While forgetting the time or day of the week is normal, it becomes a source of great concern when a person forgets which year or century they are living in or even the location of their house. People with dementia are often found wandering the streets because they have totally forgotten where they live.
Problems with Visual Image and Spatial Relationships
Another of the early warning signs of dementia is when people have difficulty in recognizing simple signs or other visual images. They become confused about simple road signs and what they stand for.
People with dementia also have difficulty in discerning distances like space between two people or the distance between objects. Individuals with dementia have difficulty in understanding quantities like volume, time order, size and time.
Difficulties in Abstract Thinking
Another part of the thinking process which is grossly affected in people with dementia is abstract thinking. A high level thought process, abstract thinkers use patterns, clues or concrete ideas to solve more difficult problems.
Individuals with dementia suffer from extreme mood swings. They may be happy and alert one moment and become suddenly unhappy and depressed the very next moment, for no apparent reason. This change in moods is often noticed in people with dementia and is another of the early warning signs of this condition. Another reason for extreme mood swings can be attributed to the fact that people with dementia increasingly lose their independence as their condition worsens.
Change in Personality
There is a distinct change in the personalities of people with dementia. Once bubbly and outgoing individuals, become increasing quiet as their condition worsens. The change in personality is due to their difficulty in communication, making judgments and their increasing forgetfulness.
Withdrawing from work and Social Activities
There is an increasing withdrawal from all work related and social activities. People with dementia start to move away from activities which require them to make decisions because they are unable to make proper or clear decisions.
Get together with friends become difficult because they fear that they will be ridiculed. Slowly people with dementia go into a world of their own where they shut themselves out from all outside activities and relationships.
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