Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental faculties so severe that it interferes with daily life. Dementia is not a single disease; it is an umbrella term for changes in an individual’s memory, thinking or reasoning ability. There are many possible causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The disorders grouped under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a severe decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, to the point of impairing daily life and independent functioning. They also affect behavior, emotions and relationships.

    The brain changes that cause dementia can be temporary, but are often permanent and worsen, leading to increased disability and shorter life expectancy. Survival can vary greatly depending on factors such as the cause of dementia, age at diagnosis and co-morbid health conditions.

    Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases. Vascular dementia, caused by microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain, is the second most common cause of dementia.

    Other types and causes of dementia are:

    • Mixed dementia
    • Frontotemporal dementia
    • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
    • Parkinson
    • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
    • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

    Individuals with Down syndrome, Huntington’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are at risk of developing dementia symptoms.

    In mixed dementia, abnormalities in the brain characteristic of more than one type of dementia occur at the same time. Doctors may also refer to this condition as “multifactorial dementia”. In the most common form of mixed dementia, abnormal protein deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease coexist with blood vessel problems linked to vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s brain changes also often include Lewy bodies, which are characteristic of dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. In some cases, a person may have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. In some cases, a person may have brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

    Symptoms of dementia can vary greatly. Examples include problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments and getting lost in familiar places. Symptoms of mixed dementia can vary depending on the types of brain changes involved and the brain regions affected. In many cases, symptoms may be similar or even indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s or another specific type of dementia. In other cases, a person’s symptoms may indicate that more than one type of dementia is present.

    Some people have a condition that is not dementia but mimics the symptoms of dementia. Common causes of dementia-like symptoms are depression, delirium, side effects of medications, thyroid problems, certain vitamin deficiencies and excessive alcohol use. Unlike dementia, these conditions are usually reversible with treatment.

    Research shows that adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy eating, not smoking, regular exercise and cognitive stimulation, can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

    A doctor can help identify the specific cause of dementia, provide appropriate care and in some cases offer guidance on available treatment options.

    Dementia is a condition that usually occurs with age and leads to a progressive decline in brain function. This decline is often manifested by impairments in memory, thinking abilities, problem-solving skills, language use and other cognitive functions. There are many different types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

    What are the Symptoms of Dementia?

    • Memory loss, especially difficulty remembering new information.
    • Decreased mental acuity; slowing of thinking abilities, difficulty making decisions.
    • Changes in emotions and behavior, such as sudden feelings of anger, doubt, fear, or changes in social interactions.
    • Tongue problems: difficulty finding words, difficulty understanding or expressing sentences.
    • Decreased motor skills; lack of coordination, difficulty with daily activities.

    Some of the Diseases with Dementia

    Dementia can have many causes, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body disease and Parkinson’s disease. Treatment of dementia is often aimed at managing symptoms and may require a multidisciplinary approach.

    The management and treatment of dementia can vary depending on the patient’s condition, type of dementia and symptoms. In general, healthcare for people with dementia requires a multidisciplinary approach and treatment options may be offered in the following areas.

    Treatments for Diseases with Dementia

    Drug Therapy for Dementia

    In Alzheimer’s disease, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine) and NMDA receptor antagonists (memantine) can be used to alleviate or delay cognitive symptoms. In other types of dementia, treatment is usually aimed at symptom management.

    Psychosocial Support and Counseling in Dementia

    Psychosocial support for people with dementia and their caregivers is important. This includes counseling, information, emotional support and practical guidance. Training is provided on coping strategies for dementia, communication skills, and techniques for managing activities of daily living.

    Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy in Dementia

    Occupational therapy develops strategies to facilitate activities of daily living (e.g. cooking, personal care). Physiotherapy helps manage physical symptoms such as movement disorders and loss of strength.

    Nutrition and Exercise in Dementia

    A healthy diet can slow the progression of dementia and improve overall health. Light exercise can be recommended to increase physical activity and maintain daily activities.

    Social Activities and Support Groups in Dementia

    Social interaction can help people with dementia maintain social ties and receive emotional support. Support groups offer information sharing, emotional support and practical advice for people living with dementia and their caregivers.

    Safe Environment and Home Arrangements in Dementia

    Safety precautions are taken at home, arrangements are made (e.g. preventing slippery floors, using handrails on stairs) and ensuring that hazardous materials are not accessible. Treatment options are individualized depending on factors such as the patient’s general health, lifestyle, symptom severity and the rate of progression of dementia. It is important that the patient is in regular contact with their doctor and that the treatment plan is constantly reviewed.