What is dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain functions. Dementia can affect anyone, but risk of developing dementia increases as you get older and the condition commonly occurs in people over the age of 65.
Symptoms of dementia:
Early symptoms of dementia are often mild and may go unnoticed. However, they get worse very gradually. The rate at which symptoms get worse and the way symptoms progress depends on the cause and type of dementia, as well as overall physical health.
The commonest symptom is of forgetfulness of recent events (short term memory loss), conversations, with intact memory for past events. Also, recalling names of people, places and forgetting names of objects can be problematic. People with dementia can become uninterested in their usual activities and have problems controlling their emotions. There may be a noticeable change in their personality. Sometimes, they may be misdiagnosed as depression.
A person with dementia may lose empathy (understanding and compassion), may see or hear things that other people do not (hallucinations), or may make false claims or statements. As dementia affects a person’s mental abilities, they may find planning and organizing difficult. Maintaining their independence may also become a problem. A person with dementia will therefore usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.
Dementia is not a disease, but a collection of symptoms.
1. Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest type of dementia across all ages. Some people may also have more than one condition- for example; they may have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time (Mixed dementia).
2. Vascular Dementia: The symptoms of vascular dementia can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, although they can also develop gradually over many months or years.
3. Dementia with Lewy Body (DLB): It has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and people with this condition typically also experience:
* Periods of being alert or drowsy, or typically fluctuating levels of confusion
* visual hallucinations commonly of seeing animals, children
* becoming slower in their physical movements with Parkinsonism
4. Fronto-temporal dementia:
Symptoms of Front-temporal dementia typically start in younger people having problems with organising, planning, due to which they may have problems at work. Other features include changes in emotions, personality and behaviour. For example, someone with this type of dementia may become less sensitive to other people’s emotions, perhaps making them seem cold and unfeeling.
They may also lose some of their inhibitions, leading to behaviour that is out of character, such as making tactless or inappropriate sexual comments or gestures.
Some people with Fronto-temporal dementia also have language problems. This may include not speaking, speaking less than usual or having problems finding the right words.