A diagnosis of dementia can be very confronting for sufferers and their loved ones, but also confusing. Most people would expect to become a little forgetful as they age. After all, the longer you live, the more memories you create and try to preserve!
But when does ‘forgetfulness’ become a more serious condition, like dementia? With the help of Dementia Australia, here we outline the main things to know about the condition.
Dementia is described as a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. In knowing this, it can often be hard for family and friends to recognise the difference between dementia and normal memory loss.
However, there a few key factors that set the two apart. Having a basic understanding of the condition, and knowing when to seek help, can make the world of difference.
Dementia alters your thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks, enough to interfere with a person’s normal social/working life. It’s important to know that, while the condition tends to affect older people, it cannot be dismissed as simply a normal part of aging.
Most common after the age of 65, dementia is far more severe than the minimal memory loss that comes with growing older. However, it does share symptoms similar in other conditions, so it may be difficult for the untrained eye to diagnose.
The signs can often be subtle, including “progressive and frequent memory loss, confusion, personality change, apathy and withdrawal, and loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.” A key difference between normal memory loss and dementia is the aggressiveness of the condition; it is persistent and progressive, not just occasional.
Professional help is an important first step if even the slightest symptoms are observed. A medical diagnosis that’s obtained early, when symptoms first appear, will ensure that someone with the condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms experienced are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis means prompt access to support, information, and medication.
Once diagnosed, there are therapies and drug treatments that may help. Studies have shown the positive effects of oestrogen, anti-inflammatory agents, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin E, statins, ginkgo biloba, brahmi and other agents. Any treatment should be undertaken in consultation with medical professionals.
The most common types of Dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies, Fronto Temporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD), Huntington’s disease, Alcohol related dementia (Korsakoff’s syndrome) and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. While the majority of cases are not inherited, it’s important to seek professional advice if you’re concerned.
In the meantime, Dementia Australia suggests keeping your memory sharp. This can be achieved by avoiding drug/alcohol abuse, keeping mentally active, reading, learning new skills, taking time to relax, following a proper sleep schedule, eating a well-balance diet, concentrating on things you want to remember, minimising distractions, keeping notes and carrying a diary, taking your time, organising your belongings, and repeating the name of people you’ve recently met.
If you’re concerned about a love one, have just found out someone in your care has dementia, or would like to know how our team can help you, enquire today. Send us an email, fill out our contact form, or give us a call – our details can be found here.