WHAT IS DEMENTIA?
Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. It’s a broad term, but simply put, it describes loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills, and what would be considered normal emotional reactions.
There are many different forms of dementia and each has its own causes. The most common are:
A progressive and degenerative illness, Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for 50 – 70% of all dementia cases, which makes it the most common cause of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease attacks the brain, causing brain cells to shrink or disappear, and abnormal deposits to build up. These deposits slowly choke the remaining brain cells, interrupting the communication within the cell networks, eventually making it impossible to complete, remember or relearn even the simplest habit.
This broad term is used to cover the second most common form of dementia, one that’s caused through lack of blood and oxygen to the brain.
Fronto Temporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD)
This is the name given to the dementia that attacks the frontal lobes or temporal lobes. Within the human body the right and left frontal lobes govern mood, behaviour, self-control and judgement. The right and left temporal lobes are involved in the organisation of sensory input, or put another way, understanding what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
Characterised by tremors, stiffness in limbs and joints and speech impediments, Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system.
While not a form of dementia, some people do develop the condition in the late states of Parkinson’s.
An inherited and degenerative brain disease, Huntington’s Disease affects the mind and body, with the majority of cases resulting in dementia.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Lewy bodies are abnormal spherical structures that develop inside the nerve cells of the brain, causing the cells to degenerate and die.
Alcohol-related dementia or Korsakoff’s Syndrome
As the name implies, Alcohol-related dementia is caused by prolonged and excessive use of alcohol, especially when it’s accompanied by poor diet, low Vitamin B1 (thiamine).
When someone has the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), they may develop a complication known as AIDS-related dementia or AIDS dementia Complex (ADC). This does not affect everyone who has HIV_AIDS, but it is still caused by the HIV virus.
Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease is an extremely rare, but fatal, brain disorder caused by a protein particle called a ‘prion’.
Diagnosed in only one in every million people, the early symptoms include failing memory, changes of behaviour and lack of co-ordination. The disease progresses rapidly and mental deterioration is pronounced. The person may have vision problems including blindness, involuntary muscle jerks or twitching, stiff limbs, difficulty with speech and swallowing. Most people will lapse into a coma before death.
WHO GETS DEMENTIA
Dementia can affect anybody, and while it’s most common after the age of 65 years, dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and, very occasionally, even younger.
Even though most people with the disease are older, it’s very important to remember that the majority of older people do not develop dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing. In fact, current statistics show that only one in four to five people of 85 and over has dementia.
CAN DEMENTIA BE INHERITED?
While most cases of the disease are not inherited, the answer to this question really depends on the individual case. If you have concerns about inheriting dementia, discuss them with your doctor and get a firm medical diagnosis.
HOW LONG DOES DEMENTIA LAST?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, including the cause of the dementia, the age at which the person was diagnosed and their general health.
Stages of dementia can vary greatly from one individual to another. Some people can live up to 20 years after they have been diagnosed, including many years with relatively mild impairment, while others can decline rapidly and die within a few years of diagnosis.
TOPICS COVERED IN THE BOOK
- What is dementia?
- Planning ahead
- Telling children and adolescents
- How dementia affects carers
- Safety issues and environment
- The Sensory Garden
- Changed behaviours
- Sleeping problems
- Communication issues
- At home
- How to help with dressing
- Other hygiene issues
- Managing incontinence