By Lisa Correa
Dementia is a condition that includes the decline of mental abilities, including problems with thinking and memory. It has a broad range of symptoms that can worsen over time. When it comes to Neuropsychological Specialties, dementia is one that is studied extensively and has a variety of treatment options to lessen its impact on the patient’s life. However, for many of the causes of dementia, there is no cure at this time.
Differences Between Normal Memory Problems and Dementia
A memory glitch isn’t the same thing as dementia. Forgetting a word or misplacing items that you just put down moments ago are examples of common memory glitches. While they are annoying, they are not a sign of dementia. Other examples of memory problems might include:
- Forgetting the name of a friend or family member’s high school mascot
- Walking into a room but then forgetting why you came in there
- Not remembering exactly where you parked the car at the ball game
These types of memory problems should not be a cause for concern. They can happen to anybody, at any age, and are often influenced by factors such as lack of sleep or stress. (If your forgetfulness accompanies feelings of anger, prolonged sadness or general lack of energy, it could be a symptom of depression. In that case, it might be a good idea to contact your doctor. But it still won’t mean that you have dementia.)
However, there are some types of memory problems that do raise concerns. They indicate a different kind of forgetfulness, one caused by deterioration of the brain’s ability to function. Many experts agree that some warning signs are severe enough that a person should call their doctor.
9 Warning Signs of Dementia You Shouldn’t Ignore
- The inability to recognize people you know well, like friends and family
- Confusing family members, e.g., unable to put a child with their parents in your immediate family
- The ability to recall memories from long ago, but unable to remember what happened last week
- Feeling disoriented about time and space
- Asking for something after you just had it, like asking for lunch right after it has just been done
- Not recognizing an everyday object
- Exercising poor judgment in everyday decisions, such as what to wear or what to bring to an event
- Forgetting how to use everyday objects, like the dishwasher
- Putting items away in the wrong and illogical places on a regular basis, e.g. leaving your car keys in the mailbox or putting the mail in the freezer
If you or someone you love has had any of these occur on a regular or even semi-regular basis, it is important to seek out a physician’s help to get an accurate diagnosis and pursue any available treatment options. A neuropsychological assessment will test the patient’s memory and the limits of their cognitive ability.
Common Causes of Dementia
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s followed by Vascular Dementia (the type of mental decline that results from a stroke). However, the term dementia can also describe memory loss caused by a thyroid problem, or even a vitamin deficiency as well.
Some other common causes of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
- Mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Huntington’s disease
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
Treatment for Dementia
Unfortunately, dementia usually cannot be reversed and for many of the causes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure. However, some medical conditions can be treated and reverse the effects of dementia for the patient. In these cases, patients might take vitamins to address a deficiency or regulate their thyroid problem with hormonal therapy.
However, in cases where dementia cannot be reversed, a different tack is taken. Palliative care describes treatment designed to improve the patient’s quality of life with dementia. It might include ways to manage daily life to retain independence as long as possible. It could be a prescription drug that can improve moods or behavior, and even improve mental function. It might also include counseling to address the feelings of anger or fear that often accompany the diagnosis.
In the not so distant past, people believed that memory loss and mental decline was just part and parcel of the aging process. While it is true that all of us forget things from time to time as we age, it is not true that all older people have dementia. Dementia is a more serious condition that needs diagnosis and treatment to reverse its effects if possible or give the patient the help they need to cope with its effects and preserve their quality of life and independence for as long as possible.
Achieve Wellness Group has many professional psychologists and neuropsychologists that can help you or someone you love gets the proper diagnosis and treatment you need to achieve your best possible wellness. Contact us to learn more.
Helpful additional resources for patients and their families from the Alzheimer’s Association:
“Dementia: 9 Warning Signs Everyone Should Know.” www.spring.org.uk. March 2016. Web. 14 April 2016. < http://www.spring.org.uk/2016/03/dementia-10-warning-signs-everyone-should-know.php>
“Dementia – Treatment Overview.” www.webmd.com. Web. 18 April 2016.<http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/tc/dementia-treatment-overview>.