Our dementia overview will help you understand
different types of memory loss.
My extended family, like so many others, have experienced dementia in loved ones. Sometimes memory loss has been lightly called "senior moments" (but to the extreme). Or just attributed to old age. As the primary caregiver to my dad, I am continually look for the signs ...and try not to be overly analytical or alarmed.
Memory loss is most commonly associated with elderly dementia and Alzheimers. But what is elderly dementia exactly? How do you know that it's not just normal memory loss associated with the aging process (as with my dad)?
Dementia is not, of course, just one of the elderly issues we deal with, but most who suffer with the condition are older. Elderly dementia usually does first shows itself as memory loss. And most elderly do exhibit this to some degree, so it is confusing. It's those “senior moments.” But lots of them. And they get worse. It is estimated that by age 85, about 35 percent of Americans will have some form of dementia. It is becoming a serious elderly health problem. The costs per year to care for dementia are approximately $100 billion, including health care, various caregiver costs, and loss of wages.
I have had many a discussion with my father's physician regarding dementia and some memory loss that he has displayed. That turned out, technically, not to be dementia, but simply the natural process of aging. Our dementia overview will consider some basic misunderstandings.
There are various emotional and stresses that accompany aging and normal memory loss, and sometimes these are confused with elderly dementia. Depression, for instance, can sometimes cause memory problems that are mistaken for dementia. There are many symptoms of dementia in seniors (see separate article). But it is estimated that about 50 percent of mild dementia cases are not diagnosed by a doctor.
Dementia screening is not included as part of a routine check-up involving patient history and a standard physical exam. If you suspect dementia in a loved one, always seek an elderly health care professional instead of jumping to conclusions.
But doctors will not necessarily automatically do a screening just because you request it. I asked my dad's doctor to screen him. But because he was not exhibiting certain signs, she would not even consider it.
So What is Dementia?
Dementia is actually a group of symptoms which occur when changes happen in the brain. Most types of dementia are irreversible; only a small percentage involve conditions that can be treated. Memory loss is just one result of these brain changes. Most people equate elderly dementia with Alzhiemers disease, but that is only a piece of a dementia overview.
There certainly are two types of dementia that are most common: Alzheimers disease and multi-infarct dementia a.k.a. vascular dementia. At this time there is no cure for either, and they are irreversible. See further explanations below. Always seek help early, as some of the conditions involved with other dementia types. Some causes of dementia may be treatable, such as vitamin deficiency, infections, elderly depression, or tumors.
Alzheimers disease. This is the most common type in our dementia overview. It is characterized by clumps and tangled fibers in the brain. Several genes have been attributed to Alzheimers, and also accumulation of certain proteins. It is progressive and there is no cure. Some medications may slow down the process, however. In its late stages it will also affect other organs in the body.
Multi-infarct dementia.This dementia type relates to a stroke, one of the serious elderly issues. Multi-infarct dementia is also called vascular dementia. An infarction involves tissue in a given area that dies, usually due to loss of the blood supply to that area. This is often due to a series of small strokes, usually resulting from high blood pressure (hypertension). It results in vascular lesions in the brain. These strokes could occur in various areas of the brain, so would result in different dementia symptoms.
If strokes do continue, the dementia symptoms will also change and increase. That is why preventing high blood pressure and stroke is key to elderly health care and preventing much elderly dementia. Early detection is important because this type of dementia can be at least somewhat preventable and treatable.
But the above are only the two main types of dementia. There are other types caused by other health factors that can often be treated. This page is just a dementia overview. See below for more details on many other aspects of dementia.
See these special pages to supplement our dementia overview.
Symptoms of Dementia
-- You may be familiar with the obvious symptoms of dementia. But it's way more than just forgetfulness or losing keys. Considering that the newest 2009 worldwide dementia reports believe dementia is becoming an epidemic, it is important to know just what to look for.
Causes of Dementia
-- The causes of dementia actually change the brain, sometimes irreversibly. But there are important precautions you can take. Learn just what you can do.
Meaningful Dementia Activities
-- Finding meaningful dementia activities may be a new venture for you if you're caring for a loved one. It can also be an ongoing challenge if you're a professional caregiver or activities director. So be sure to check out some of our suggestions on this page.
-- Dementia treatment may be possible, if detected in time. Learn what the options are.
Global Dementia Statistics Spell Urgency
-- Dementia Statistics in the 2009 World Alzheimer Report are staggering. Our easy summary explains it concisely. So you don't have to dredge through the report. Find out why this worldwide dementia organization believes dementia is becoming a global epidemic. And what can be done. We also have links to the full document if you'd like it.
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