Dementia is the decline in a person’s mental ability. This disorder affects thinking, memory, concentration, solving, behaviour and perception. Most of the types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, tend to get worse as time goes by or they are degenerative. There are other types of dementia, like vascular dementia, which are non-degenerative or do not get worse as time goes by.
For the people affected with dementia, they become easily confused, restless and perform repetitive actions. The patients can become irritable, agitated and tearful. This scenario is stressing for both the patient and his family. Because of the frustration patients feel about their condition, they can also develop depression, aggressive and improper sexual behaviour, disturbed sleep and incontinence.
There are one out of twenty people over the age of sixty-five who can develop dementia. When the elderly is over the age of eighty-five, there is a higher risk of developing dementia: one out of four elderly can develop the disorder. People who have been diagnosed with dementia before the age of sixty-five are very rare cases. This type of dementia is called pre-senile or early onset dementia.
Causes of dementia
Dementia is caused by the death of the neurons or if there are damaged areas in the brain that is responsible for functioning and thought processes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. How Alzheimer’s disease is triggered is not exactly known but scientists have suggested that ageing could be a risk factor. The multi-infarct or the vascular dementia is the next common type of dementia. This type caused by a series of strokes that are responsible in constricting the blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
Once dementia affects the neurons in the brain, this can be followed by any of the following problems:
- lack of oxygen or blood supply to parts of the brain that control thought processes and functioning
- when a tumour applies pressure to the brain
- head injuries
- due to hydrocephalus or when fluid builds up between the brain lining and the brain
- long term alcohol abuse
- AIDS and other infectious diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases like Creutzfeld Jakob disease or Parkinson’s disease
- vitamin deficiency
Cure for dementia
Majority of the types of dementia still do not have cures except dementias caused by vitamin deficiency and head injuries. Vitamin deficiency which results to dementia can be cured by taking in vitamin supplements while head injuries which result to dementia can be cured through surgery.
Aricept and Reminyl are anti-dementia drugs which can relieve the symptoms of dementia but are not able to cure it. Researchers are now looking at other alternative medicines like anti-oxidants, vaccination and brain stem cell procedures to stop plaques from building up in the brain. Plaque build-up in the brain is the main characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Aside from the ones mentioned above, alternative methods such as aromatherapy, music therapy and reminiscence therapy are used to treat dementia.
Prevention for dementia
Majority of the types of dementia do not have cures but there a lot of psychological therapies and anti-dementia medications that are effective in minimizing the symptoms in the early stage of dementia. It is essential that the patient should get proper evaluation of his cognitive function as early as necessary.
There are no known preventive measures for dementia but there are possible ways to try and lead healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of dementia. Pursuing a healthy diet, regular exercise and taking in dietary supplements like Ginkgo biloba can ensure an ample supply of blood going to the brain. But before trying any medication always consult a doctor first. Fun activities like doing puzzles and crosswords can help stimulate the cognitive function of the brain as well.
Advice for caregivers
If someone has dementia, the family of the patient can enlist a specialist’s help. There is several support information to help the family of the patient cope up with the stress of taking care of the patient. The support information can be asked from your GP, local council or Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
The social services have the responsibility to provide a variety of help that will suit the caregiver’s needs and abilities. Some services will give more help than other services but you will have to pay them more for their services. Local authorities are not legally obliged to give care at the patient’s home if this service would cost a lot more than nursing or residential care.
Some patients can also be sent to day care centers for people with dementia. Facilities like this would provide reminiscence therapy and are run locally by volunteers, health authorities, social services and several residential and nursing homes. Transportation is provided by the facilities.
Nursing or residential care for the patient can also be considered if the caregiver is busy and has a lot of responsibility aside from taking care of the patient.
Residential homes can provide the activities and meals for the patients. They are also responsible for dressing, bathing and washing the patients. But patients with dementia who have physical disabilities and whose attitude cannot be supervised well by non-professional personnel should seek care from a nursing home. The cost of residential and nursing homes will vary.
The caregiver should also think about his own needs because taking care of patients with dementia is physically and emotionally exhausting especially if the caregiver is all by himself. Taking a break or relaxing in between care giving duties is advisable. The patient can be put into a hospital or a respite care for a short time. Alternatively, the caregiver can also arrange for someone else to take his place while he is away.