Learn about the various types of dementia, how doctors diagnose it, and how to get help if you suspect your loved one is suffering from dementia.
Dementia is not a fun topic. In fact, you may not even want to talk or hear about it. It may bring on unsettling feelings of sadness and concern. However, as people live longer and longer, it is a grave reality for many. In fact, as the large population of baby boomers starts to age, we will likely encounter more dementia in our loved ones than ever before.
About a fifth of the population currently suffers from dementia, with most of them experiencing Alzheimer’s dementia, specifically. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S, requiring a good deal of resources and coordination of care and time from loved ones, family members, and health care teams.
If you suspect a family member may be suffering from this potentially debilitating medical condition, make sure to read or listen on.
What Is Dementia?
When screening patients for dementia, it’s usually an issue that is first brought to my attention by a family member because most patients with dementia don’t even realize there’s a problem.
Dementia is a progressive disorder; that means that it gets worse with time. It is a deterioration in overall intellectual ability that also interferes with the person’s ability to function in social and occupational roles. It’s really uncommon to find dementia at age 60, comprising only about 1% of the population. But by age 85, it can reach a high of 30% to 40% prevalence.
Symptoms of Dementia
Here are some areas of intellectual ability that patients with dementia can have trouble with:
- Learning/retaining new info: Repeating things, trouble remembering recent events, frequently misplaces objects.
- Handling complex tasks: Trouble following a complex train of thought or performing tasks that require many steps (such as managing their finances or cooking a meal).
- Reasoning ability: Unable to respond with a reasonable plan to problems at work or at home (for example, knowing what to do if the bathroom is flooded).
- Spatial ability and orientation: Trouble driving, organizing objects around the house, finding their way around familiar places.
- Language: Increasing difficulty finding words to express what they want to say.
- Behavior: Appears more passive, less responsive. More irritable, more suspicious.
- Miscellaneous: Fails to arrive at the right date or time for doctor appointments; has difficulty discussing current events in their area of interest; sharp changes in behavior or dress.
Initially, most patients begin to show signs of dementia by having difficulty with more complex tasks, such as handling finances. They may have difficulties paying the bills on time or balancing their checkbook. Short term memory is often affected in early dementia as well – they may not be able to recall a recent event or conversation, but older memories from the past are crisp and clear.
Later in the progression...