Coping with Dementia
Dementia is often regarded as an age-specific illness. In other words, dementia is more likely to develop with aging. It is not a disease in its own but rather, a general term for symptoms caused by other disorders. Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease are the most common causes of dementia. The syndrome mainly affects the cortical and the subcortical parts of the brain. As a result, symptoms of dementia are mainly associated with memory, thinking, reasoning, language, and communication, visual perception, as well as focus impairments. Even though a loss of memory could mean that one has dementia, to be diagnosed with the condition, an individual must present with at least two types of brain-related challenges severe enough to alter-day-to-day activities (Miesen, 2016). However, there is no specific test to detect dementia and physicians may carry out several assessments such as brain scans, laboratory examinations, and psychiatric evaluation, among others to diagnose the problem. As for treatment, doctors focus on managing the symptoms since most types of dementia have no cure. This paper will discuss dementia in the context of how it can be treated, its risk factors, and its symptoms.
Change in memory is one of the main and early indicators of dementia. A decline in memory is experienced by almost all people diagnosed with dementia. More so, a significant number of people with this condition largely exhibit characteristics of short-term memory (Miesen, 2016). For instance, a person might remember an incident that took place years ago but cannot remember something they recently did such as taking breakfast. Other pointers of memory deterioration might include failure to remember where one left an item, daily duties, and people’s names. This kind of forgetfulness highly differs from that of normal people. As such, it qualifies as dementia since it also interferes with and affects one’s daily life.
Another common symptom of dementia is poor language and communication skills. Many people with the condition tend to struggle when it comes to finding the right words whenever they want to talk (Kales, Gitlin & Lyketsos, 2015). As a result, they often find it hard to express their thoughts or convey their feelings to other people. This presents a communication barrier as their message may be interpreted wrongly. Also, discussions with such people might take longer than that of normal people. In addition, individuals in the early stages of dementia tend to forget the meanings of words and this can be challenging for them to follow storylines in television programs or during conversations.
Moreover, people who suffer from dementia often struggle to complete normal tasks. Unlike normal people, dementia is associated with difficulties in running and finishing errands that one is familiar with and expected to perform without necessarily thinking of the procedure (Kales, Gitlin & Lyketsos, 2015). For instance, a person who has dementia may not know the steps needed to cook a meal or how to put on clothes. Apart from struggling with the usual tasks, they also find it challenging to learn new procedures or handle complicated duties.
Confusion is also a significant sign of dementia. Since patients experience memory loss and a decline in memory and judgmental capacity, confusion may occur in varying situations. For instance, one may misplace items by placing them in places they should not be (Kales, Gitlin & Lyketsos, 2015. A good example is putting an iron box in the fridge. Another example of confusion might be wearing warm clothes on a sunny day as a result of diminished reasoning ability.
Age is the main risk factors associated with dementia. In fact, many people refer to the condition as “senile dementia” to mean that memory deterioration is a normal feature of aging. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings, chances for developing Alzheimer’s disease double every five years after attaining 65 years. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s Association data shows that one in nine people aged 65 years and above, that is, approximately five million Americans have Alzheimer’s condition (Miesen, 2016). What is more, the fact that one in three seniors in the U.S die of any forms of dementia further supports that the syndrome is closely linked with aging. There are, however, various measures that one can take to ensure the well-being of their brain as they age.
Genetics is another risk factor for dementia. Multiple scientists have concluded that a large number of dementias contain genetic components which are often inherited (Miesen, 2016). Besides, there are some genes whose mutations have been declared as a risk factor for developing the disease.
In addition, poor cardiovascular health accelerates and increases the chances of developing dementia. For instance, Atherosclerosis is a danger to one’s brain functioning. Typically it is characterized with the buildup of a plaque on the arterial walls, making them thick and hard. The accumulation of plaque causes the arteries to become narrow and this alters the normal flow of the blood to various parts of the body including the brain. Consequently, brain cells may malfunction or die (Miesen, 2016). The direct impact of this may be memory loss, inability to reason or think properly, and confusion, among other factors which signify dementia.
Another medical condition that can lead to dementia over time is diabetes. More specifically, the disease is highly associated with the development of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Multiple scientists have concluded that the mental function of people with diabetes decreases with age compared to their non-diabetic peers. An uncontrolled sugar level, whether high or low is not friendly for one’s mental health (Miesen, 2016). In fact, one of the main symptoms of diabetes type two is memory loss. Being diabetic is also closely linked with obesity and a wide range of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and stroke which can contribute to the development of dementia.
Other risk factors for dementia include smoking, drinking alcohol, and sleep problems. Even though it becomes difficult to have enough sleep as people age, an increasing body of research has regarded sleep as an important element of ensuring a healthy brain. More so, it has been proven that the brain gets rid of the toxic substances during sleep. As for smokers, their chances to develop dementia is 30 percent more than that of non-smokers (Miesen, 2016). On the other hand, heavy and binge consumption of alcohol elevates the possibility of developing symptoms of dementia over time.
Various types of medication can be used to manage dementia. Cholinesterase inhibitors, for instance, acts on the chemical messenger in the brain to boost memory and judgment (Livingston, et al. 2017). They include medications such as rivastigmine and galantamine, just to mention a few, and are widely used in the management of Alzheimer’ disease. Nevertheless, these inhibitors may be used to treat vascular, Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy body dementia. Memantine, another common type of medication used in the treatment of dementia impacts glutamate to improve learning and memory. Doctors may also prescribe other drugs to manage symptoms such as depression and agitation that may be present in individuals who present with dementia.
Non-drug interventions can be used to treat dementia symptoms. Occupational therapy is a popular approach that can be used on people with dementia. It can involve teaching the patient about coping mechanism and how to safeguard themselves. The intention of an occupational therapist in the context of dementia treatment is to prevent accidents, manage behavior, and assist individuals to prepare for their dementia progression (Livingston, et al. 2017). Another type of treatment is by modifying the surroundings as it can improve the mental functionality in a person with dementia. For instance, an individual can improve on focusing when the noise is reduced.
In addition, exercise can be of great benefit to people with dementia just as it is to everyone. Exercise improves ones strength as well as cardiovascular health. With this, chances of developing heart diseases which are risk factors to the development of dementia are lowered. A significant number of researchers have concluded that exercising regularly, eating and eating a healthy diet reduces the vulnerability to dementia (Livingston, et al. 2017).
Overall, dementia is one of the diseases that develop with age. Typically, it describes a wide range of symptoms triggered by other diseases. There are multiple causes of the disease but Alzheimer’s accounts for the largest percentage of people with dementia. Reduced memory, poor thinking and reasoning capacity, inability to communicate properly are some of the main symptoms of dementia. It is important to detect the indicators of dementia as early as possible so that to seek the necessary treatment. Dementia cannot be cured but its symptoms can be managed. Treatment of dementia can involve medications, therapies as well as lifestyle and home remedies such as exercise, or a combination.
Kales, H. C., Gitlin, L. N., & Lyketsos, C. G. (2015). Assessment and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Bmj, 350, h369.
Livingston, G., Sommerlad, A., Orgeta, V., Costafreda, S. G., Huntley, J., Ames, D., & Cooper, C. (2017). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet, 390(10113), 2673-2734.
Miesen, B. (2016). Dementia in close-up. Routledge.