This information describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of dementia.
Dementia is the loss of brain functions, such as memory, thinking, and reasoning that interferes with a person’s daily functions.
Dementia describes a group of symptoms caused by various diseases or conditions. It usually develops slowly over time and is most often seen in older adults. However, it is not a normal part of aging. Some common symptoms may include:
- Trouble remembering recent events.
- Trouble remembering the names of people and places.
- Becoming lost in places that were once familiar.
- Being confused about time, people, and places.
- Difficulty with complex tasks, such as balancing a checkbook, paying bills, or planning activities.
- Problem with language, such as word searching.
- Trouble recognizing things or saying their purpose.
- Personality changes.
Most adults experience some form of mild forgetfulness. This usually doesn’t point to a serious memory problem, but if symptoms get worse or they interfere with the person’s daily activities, you may need to see a doctor.
If you’re worried about your loved one’s forgetfulness, speak with his or her doctor, so that they can get help right away.
The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, but it can be caused by many other conditions. Sometimes, dementia can be prevented by preventing the cause. For example, taking certain medication may prevent a stroke. However, most of the time, dementia cannot be prevented.Back to top
The doctor will take a medical history, do a physical exam, and order blood tests. He or she may order tests that check memory, problem solving, counting, and language skills. The doctor may also order imaging of the brain such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to gather more information.Back to top
If your loved one has dementia, he or she may benefit from getting enough sleep, following strict routines, and continuing social activities. There are some medications which may slow down the course of the disease. However, there is no cure for dementia at this time.Back to top
How to Help Your Loved One
When the disease advances, your loved one will likely need help at home. You can provide support in many ways, including:
- Promoting exercise or other physical activities.
- Having friends visit.
- Maintaining daily routine
- Reminding him or her of the time of day and what is happening at home and in the world.
- Ensuring that they are in safe surroundings.
Ask the doctor, case manager, or social worker for help if your loved one:
- Becomes violent.
- Has inappropriate behavior.
- Is unsafe alone at home.
- Needs help taking care of him or herself.
Some people may benefit from living in a long-term care facility. Ask the healthcare team for more information.Back to top
There are many resources available to help you learn more about dementia. Contact the organizations below to learn about support groups, services, publications, research centers, and studies.
24-hour helpline: 1-800-272-3900
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center
National Institute on Aging
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