By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 10 April 2021
It is normal for people to forget things, places or people when they grow old. However, if the forgetfulness is accompanied by a decline in cognitive abilities such as the ability to make decisions, solve problems or plan things, it could be a sign of dementia.
Dementia is the term used to determine the decline in mental function severe enough to hamper daily activities. While the condition is more commonly seen in older people (at or above the age of 65 years), it is not necessarily a part of normal ageing. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), every year 10 million new cases of dementia are reported across the globe. In the late stages, the affected person may lose their ability to remember, reason, comprehend, calculate, judge, and learn new things.
Not every individual suffers from dementia in their old age. As people grow old, they tend to experience bone loss, weakening of muscles, stiffening of blood vessels, and age-related memory loss.
Unlike the loss of memory experienced in dementia, a person with age-related memory changes does not forget their old memories, experiences or a language they would have learnt over the years. Older adults may sometimes misplace their keys, forget the most recent events or the name of an acquaintance but their knowledge stays intact. Hence, a person with age-related forgetfulness, despite their occasional memory lapses, can function independently and carry out normal day-to-day activities.
A person with dementia, on the other hand, finds it difficult to perform daily activities. At the most severe stage, such an individual may need to depend entirely on others for carrying out basic daily activities.
The early signs of dementia include:
The signs of dementia in the later stages include:
Dementia occurs due to the damage caused to the brain cells, making it difficult for the brain to function properly. Different regions of the brain are responsible for different functions. For instance, the amygdala is responsible for emotional behaviour, while the hippocampus is responsible for episodic as well as recognition memory. The damage in the different regions of the brain results in various forms of dementia which include:
Anyone can suffer from dementia, but factors that may increase the risk of developing dementia include:
There is no cure for dementia. However, early diagnosis and treatment options may help in managing the symptoms of dementia effectively. Medications such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs are given to people with severe behavioural changes. Things that may help in dealing with dementia include:
The family and friends of people suffering from dementia can also support and improve their lives by:
Dementia can range from mild, where the person starts forgetting things, to severe, when they are completely dependent on others for their daily activities. Early diagnosis and optimal management can help improve the quality of life in people suffering from dementia. Doctors must also identify and treat the accompanying physical illnesses in these patients such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other metabolic disorders. By leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining social contacts, one can decrease the severity of the symptoms of dementia.
For any questions on mental health, you can speak to our mental health expert.
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