Fifty million people throughout the world have dementia which equals one new case every three seconds. In the United States alone, there are almost six million people living with dementia and that number is predicted to triple to sixteen million people by 2050. It is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States, taking the lives of approximately five hundred thousand people each year. With statistics like these, chances are you know or will know someone who suffers from dementia. So, what do you know about this health condition?
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a wide range of symptoms that interfere with a person’s cognitive abilities. It is not a specific disease rather a group of brain changing medical conditions and there are many types of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association website explains, “it’s an overall term — like heart disease — that covers a wide range of specific medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. Disorders grouped under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behavior, feelings and relationships.”
Causes and Risk Factors
Dementia is caused by damaged brain cells that cannot communicate with each other.
Genetics and lifestyle choices put people at risk for this disorder. Obviously, you cannot change your age or genetics but there are some health-related risks you can control with the help from a medical professional. These include treating sleep apnea, seeking medical help for depression, managing high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and blood sugar.
Heavy alcohol use
Lack of exercise
Signs of Dementia
Losing track of time
Getting lost in familiar places
Forgetting to pay bills
Short term memory issues
Difficulty preparing meals
Forgetting to eat
Forgetting recent events
Forgetting people’s names
Getting lost at home
Needing help with taking care of self
Behavior changes, repeating questions, wandering
Difficulty recognizing friends and family
Difficulty walking and taking care of self
Not knowing the time or where they are
Extreme behavior changes including aggression and anger
Dementia Treatment and Management
There is no cure for this condition but there are ways to manage and temporarily improve the symptoms. Different medications are prescribed to treat the underlying condition (vitamin deficiency, injury, or a side effect of medication) or to help with memory and judgement. Alzheimer’s disease symptoms can sometimes be reduced with a specific type of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. If there is no underlying condition that can be cured there is the option of therapy. Therapy is also used if a nondrug approach is preferred or sometimes used along with medication. These therapies include occupational therapy, simplifying tasks for a loved one with dementia, and something called disorder management. This focuses on treating the symptoms and providing care. There are many more options of disease management such as alternative medicine, music and pet therapy, and clinical trials. It is especially important that caregivers of people with dementia learn as much as they can and that they have good support system. Dementia not only affects the person diagnosed, but it also affects all their loved ones too.