Dementia is the term that describes a group of symptoms that relate to problems with memory, thinking, and social abilities rather than a medical condition. In order to be classified as dementia, at least two brain functions must be affected.
Symptoms of Dementia
Symptoms of dementia vary widely and depend on the cause of the dementia. Common indications of dementia include both cognitive and psychological symptoms. Cognitive symptoms include memory loss, difficulty communicating or conducting complex tasks, difficulty with coordination or motor function, and disorientation that can be so severe that it leads to patients getting lost.
Psychological symptoms of dementia include personality changes, inappropriate behaviors, increasing paranoia or agitation, the loss of the ability to reason, and the onset of hallucinations.
Causes of Dementia
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many possible causes of dementia, but the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects as many as 5 million Americans over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s falls under the category of progressive dementia, which worsens over time and has no cure. Other diseases categorized as progressive dementia include Parkinson’s disease and vascular dementia, which is the second most common type and results from brain damage.
Reversible dementia is curable and can also result from many different conditions. These include infections like meningitis, immune disorders like multiple sclerosis, endocrine or metabolic abnormalities, and poisoning by heavy metals, pesticides, or drug or alcohol abuse.
Problems Associated with Dementia
People with dementia are at a higher risk of inadequate nutrition due to the eventual loss of interest in food, a reduced appetite, or simply forgetting to eat. This can lead to inadequate nutrition.
Other problem that may stem from dementia include reduced personal hygiene, improper dosing of medications, and safety risks associated with cooking, falling, and getting lost.
Helping Dementia Patients Live a High Quality Life
In the case of progressive dementia, there will likely come a time with the patient can no longer live alone. According to Spirit Home Healthcare, a leading provider of in-home care providers, the care of patients with dementia should consist of a holistic approach that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit.
Communication may become increasingly difficult for dementia patients, and making eye contact and speaking slowly in simple sentences can make communicating easier.
Exercise can slow the progression of some types of dementia as well as help reduce feelings of depression, maintain optimum motor skills, and help bring a sense of calm to the dementia patient.
Mental activities like games and puzzles can help keep those with dementia as sharp as possible for as long as possible.
Routines are highly important for patients with advanced dementia, especially at night, when symptoms tend to worsen. Maintaining a calendar to help the patient remember upcoming events and special days and to visualize the lay of time can help alleviate feelings of confusion and anxiety.
Therapeutic programs like pet therapy, aromatherapy, massage therapy, and music therapy also help promote relaxation and improve the quality of life for patients with dementia and alleviate feelings of frustration, which can make symptoms worse.