Dementia is a neurological disease, commonly of old age, which mainly affects memory, leading to difficulties in daily activities like organisation abilities, remembering tasks, judgement, forgetting previously learned information and in advanced cases, being unable to recognise family members, difficulty taking care of self and complete dependence on a caretaker. In some cases, psychiatric symptoms like irritability, suspicion, paranoia, sleep disturbance, personality change can predominate.
Many neurological disorders can cause dementia, but the most common cause is Alzheimer's disease, where there is damage to the nerve cells that are responsible for storage and retrieval of memories in the brain.
How do you know if an elder in my family may be suffering from dementia?
- Dementia is different from old age related cognitive decline. Dementia causes a degree of functional impairment which is much more than what happens in normal ageing.
- Therefore, early recognition can slow the progress of the illness and reduce disability.
Watch out for these signs
- Problems with short term and recent memory : Forgetting what was eaten for a recent meal, Forgetting recently learned information, forgetting appointments
- Problems keeping track of belongings like keys, wallet
- Problems with daily activities like preparing meals, doing simple calculations, remembering the route to the house
- Obvious change in emotion and behaviour, frequent mood changes, irritability, crying spells, anger outbursts
Diagnosis and treatment
- Diagnosis is based on clinical assessment and memory testing by a trained professional.
- Medication and Supportive treatments can help improve the functionality of the patient and also slow down the progression of the illness.