Healthy Aging and Dementia
Most people believe that having a "touch of dementia" is normal when growing older. The misconception is common for older adults that being forgetful is the first sign of a cognitive disorder, but that is not true.
Forgetting about simple things like where did I put the keys or why did I walk into this room happens to most or us, whether one has dementia or not.
What is Normal Cognitive Decline in Aging?
Do you fall for this? You forget where the keys are but later remember where they are after tracing back your steps? If you cannot find them, it could be that you put them in an unconventional area like the refrigerator or the trash can. It does not mean you have a case of dementia.
What is considered "normal memory loss" will include the various parts of an experience which you recall later. If dementia is involved, then the whole experience is never remembered even at a later time. Another characteristic that's common is forgetting current events or information.
Types of Dementia
A few examples of the different types of dementia is having difficulty with the following:
- Planning and solving problems
- Implementing tasks that are familiar
- Confused with time or place
- Understanding visual images and surroundings
- Speaking or writing
- Demonstrating faulty decisions
- Retreating from social events
- Frequent mood changes
If a person demonstrates difficulties like those above, make an appointment with the primary care physician. A doctor can help determine and rule out reversible causes of dementia. The reversible causes are secondary to various imbalances in the body, depression, thyroid issues and several other factors.
Once a diagnosis of non reversible dementia is firm, one must investigate the type of cognitive impairment it is and begin to research for the best treatment options. Because dementia is progressive; decisions about care, living arrangements, safety, and financial and legal matters should be discussed immediately. It gives the individual the opportunity to participate in decisions that ultimately affect the rest of one's life.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for approximately 60-80% of all dementias (2015).
Stages of Dementia
Early onset: The affected person exhibits difficulty with short-term memory. The individual pulls away from daily routines and activities. Another common sign of the disease is mental depression. They're referredto as "The Great Foolers" because they can put on a good show in acting normal. They do anything to hide the deficits.
If you spend more than 5 minutes with a person in the early stages of Alzheimer's, you will notice that she is hiding a secret. As the disease advances, the person will show difficulties:
- In using standard items
- Forget daily tasks such as putting on a shirt or dress
- Become frustrated or emotional quickly
- Exhibit poor judgment and thinking skills
Later stages: The person with dementia needs assistance with most activities of daily living. They are unable to walk or move about on their on, have limited speech, have a poor appetite with significant weight loss and have bladder and bowel incontinence.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia (Mayo Clinic 2015); however Lewy body dementia is becoming known as equally prevalent as vascular dementia. This type of dementia (vascular dementia) is a result of a reduced oxygen supply to the brain and causes strokes or multiple mini-strokes.
Lewy body dementia is the result of Lewy bodies found in the brain and it's closely related to Parkinson's disease. The symptoms of Lewy body dementia involves (movement disorders often seen with Parkinson's disease) and:
- Irregular sequences of confusion and disorientation
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Sleep disorders
- Cognitive impairment
Diagnosing Lewy body dementia vs. Parkinson's disease is determined by the person's initial indicators. For example, if one demonstrates a symptom prior to a movement disorder, the diagnosis is Lewy body dementia. If the movement disorder occurs first and the dementia happens later, then Parkinson's disease is likely the cause.
It's not 100% that individuals with Parkinson's disease will also have dementia, but they have a greater risk to do so.
Other common dementias:
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Mixed dementia
- Huntington's disease
If you suspect dementia, see a doctor immediately so that the proper treatment is prescribed.
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