Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected.

The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally.

Signs and symptoms of dementia are varied, but typically include:

Memory loss

Problems with speaking or communicating (word-finding difficulties, repetition).

Problems focusing

Impairments in judgment
Struggles completing tasks.

Has difficulty comprehending what is seen.

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Dementia is diagnosed after a series of assessments, including a physical evaluation and determination of the history of any problems.

Memory tests, imaging studies, and blood work may exclude other problems which might mimic dementia. The diagnosis of dementia can take a long time.

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The treatment for dementia is primarily supportive. Prescription medications cannot reverse or stop the process. Environmental changes, a structured schedule, regular exercise, and staying engaged with others can all be beneficial.

Home care for dementia can be beneficial for patients and families, as a way for patients to remain close to family members.

However, caregivers should confirm that they have help to avoid burnout.

Prescription drugs to treat dementia include donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), galantamine (Razadyne), and memantine (Namenda). A new combination of donepezil and memantine (Namzaric) was recently approved by the FDA.

Although there is no way to absolutely prevent dementia, modifying the risk factors of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcohol intake, and keeping diabetes as well-controlled as possible, as well as exercising regularly can help.

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The prognosis for a person with dementia is individual. Some patients have a rapidly progressive course, while others progress very slowly. Factors which contribute to the progression of dementia haven’t been fully identified.

Do you know someone with dementia? How do you cope with them? Let us know in the comment section.

Stay safe, and stay healthy.

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