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Understanding Dementia: Types, Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment

Understanding Dementia: Types, Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment

Dementia is a complex neurological condition that has a significant impact on individuals, families and communities worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55 million people have dementia around the globe. 

What is Dementia?

Medical experts define Dementia as- A syndrome that can be caused by a number of diseases which over time destroy nerve cells and damage the brain, typically leading to a deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal aging. 

In simple terms, Dementia is a condition that affects the brain and makes it hard for people to remember things, think, and do everyday activities.

Dementia is caused by different diseases that damage the brain cells, and it mainly affects older people. It gets worse over time, and people with dementia may have trouble communicating, making decisions, and doing things they used to do easily. 

What are the types of Dementia?

The types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD): The most common and well-known cause of dementia, characterized by a progressive change in the brain’s chemistry and structure, leading to memory loss, confusion, and mood swings.
  • Vascular Dementia: Caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, often due to a stroke, leading to problems with thinking speed, concentration, and task completion.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Characterized by protein aggregates in nerve cells, leading to symptoms such as visual hallucinations, focus and attention problems, and uncoordinated movement.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: A group of diseases affecting behavior, personality, language, and movement, associated with the breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the brain.
  • Mixed Dementia: Involves a combination of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia, leading to a mix of symptoms associated with each condition.

Parkinson’s Dementia:

Initially affecting movement, it can later impact memory, attention, and judgment, resembling Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It’s a specific brain condition that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. So, while all Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s. There are other causes of dementia, each with its own effects on the brain and behavior.

What are the Stages and Symptoms of Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive condition that affects individuals differently, but it is often categorized into three stages:

  1. Early Stage Dementia:

Individuals at this stage stay largely independent and require minimal assistance in daily activities. The symptoms of early stage dementia includes:

  • Memory problems– A person may not recall recent events or may keep losing items around the house.
  • Difficulties in thinking– A person may get confused more easily and find it harder to solve problems and/or make complex decisions.
  • Language and communication gets affected– A person may find it difficult to follow a conversation or may struggle to find the right word in a conversation.
  • Poor orientation– A person may get lost or not recognize where they are, even in a place that is familiar to them. 
  • Visual-perception difficulties– A person may get visual hallucinations and/or lose the ability to judge distances, for example, when using the stairs.
  • Changes in mood or emotion– A person can become more withdrawn, lose self-confidence and lose interest in hobbies or people.

An individual at this stage should be observed to understand what they are capable of and not take over or do things for them. Instead, try doing things with them.

  1. Middle Stage Dementia:

In middle stage dementia, symptoms of the early stage become more noticeable, and the individual will need more support in managing daily life. The symptoms of middle stage dementia includes:

  • Worsening of all the symptoms of “Early Stage Dementia”
  • Agitation and restlessness.
  • Screaming and shouting.
  • Repetitive behavior- for example, asking the same question over and over again.
  • Trailing- following a caregiver around
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Losing inhibitions- for example, undressing in public or saying things that aren’t appropriate.

Individuals in middle stage dementia may exhibit a pattern known as “Sundowning”, wherein they may become more agitated, aggressive or confused early in the morning or in the late afternoons. 

  1. Later Stage Dementia:

An individual in later stage dementia will need full-time care and support with daily living and carrying out everyday tasks such as eating, washing and dressing. While this support can be given at home, it is recommended to be given in a care home setting. Symptoms of Later Stage Dementia include:

  • Changes in behavior 
  • Restlessness
  • Memory and language difficulties
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Fall more often
  • Walk more slowly and less steadily
  • Need a lot of help eating 
  • Have difficulty swallowing
  • Become incontinent – lose control of their bladder and bowels

What are the Treatments of Dementia?

While there is no absolute cure for dementia, a lot can be done to support the victims of dementia and their caregivers.

Maintaining Quality of Life with Dementia

  • Being physically active
  • Engaging in stimulating activities and social interactions
  • Taking medications to manage symptoms

Medications for Dementia Symptoms

  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors (e.g., donepezil) for Alzheimer’s disease
  • NMDA Receptor Antagonists (e.g., memantine) for severe Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia
  • Medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for severe depression
  • Caution with antipsychotic medications

Self-Care for Dementia Management

  • Physical activity, healthy eating, and regular check-ups
  • Lifestyle changes: Stop smoking, limit alcohol
  • Cognitive stimulation: Hobbies, new activities, and social engagement
  • Planning ahead: Identifying trusted individuals, creating advance plans, and carrying essential information

Support for Caregivers

  • Recognizing the challenges of providing care
  • Seeking help from family, friends, and professionals
  • Taking regular breaks and managing stress
  • Engaging in mindfulness-based exercises and seeking professional guidance when needed

These strategies aim to enhance the well-being of individuals with dementia and support their caregivers in managing the complexities associated with the condition.

At VSH Hospital, we can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of dementia in Bangalore. Here’s how we can help:

  • Supporting Dementia Patients: Our hospital provides expert evaluation and medical management for dementia patients. We offer a cross-disciplinary approach, involving neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other specialists to address the complex needs of dementia patients.
  • Specialized Care: VSH Hospital specializes in testing, diagnosing, and treating dementia. We offer comprehensive care tailored to the specific medical and emotional needs of individuals with dementia.
  • Support for Caregivers: We also play a role in supporting caregivers, providing guidance, education, and resources to help them understand and manage the challenges associated with dementia care.
  • Facility Upgrades: At VSH Hospital, we are committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities to support the needs of our patients. We are continuously upgrading our facilities to ensure that we are equipped to provide the best possible care.

In summary, VSH Hospital plays a central role in the comprehensive care, diagnosis, and treatment of dementia, offering a multidisciplinary approach to address the complex needs of patients and their caregivers. We are committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities and resources to support the needs of our patients. Get in touch with us or Click here to book an appointment.

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