How Common Is Dementia
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 5 million U.S. adults age 65 or older have Alzheimers and related dementia. By 2060, the CDC projects that about 14 million people will have dementia, which is about 3.3% of the population.
Alzheimers disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of death in Americans age 65 and older.
How Is Dementia Diagnosed
To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.
A review of a persons medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.
Struggling With Familiar Tasks
We all lose our keys from time to time, but if your loved one has started to lose their keys and find them in strange places, it could be something to raise with a GP. Becoming disorientated in familiar places, such as a relatives home or the local supermarket, or forgetting the rules of a much-loved game are also signs of possible abnormal memory loss.
Coming to terms with dementia
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Vascular Dementia: Early Signs And Symptoms
Vascular dementia occurs when blocked or damaged blood vessels in the brain deprive brain cells of the oxygen and vital nutrients they need. It is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimers, accounting for an estimated 10 percent of all cases.
In the past, doctors used a diagnosis of vascular dementia to rule out Alzheimers, and vice versa. Now theres increasing awareness that both forms of dementia often coexist, a condition called mixed dementia.
Symptoms of vascular dementia may be most pronounced immediately after a person has a stroke that blocks a major blood vessel in the brain. These sudden changes can include these symptoms:
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending speech
- Loss of vision
Repeated small strokes or other damage to smaller blood vessels in the brain can lead to more subtle impairments that worsen over time. These symptoms can include the following:
- Difficulty making judgments and planning
- Uncontrolled laughing and crying
- Increasing inability to focus mentally
- Difficulty functioning in social situations
- Trouble finding the right words
Disproportionate Impact On Women
Globally, dementia has a disproportionate impact on women. Sixty-five percent of total deaths due to dementia are women, and disability-adjusted life years due to dementia are roughly 60% higher in women than in men. Additionally, women providethe majority of informal care for people living with dementia, accounting for 70% of carer hours.
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Problems With Speaking Or Writing
A person with dementia may find it hard to engage in conversations. They might forget what they are saying or what somebody else has said, and it may be challenging to enter a conversation.
People may also find that their spelling, punctuation, and grammar get worse. Sometimes, a persons handwriting becomes more difficult to understand.
Problems With Visual And Spatial Relationships
If your elderly loved one is failing to recognise themselves in the mirror, this could indicate that a cognitive condition such as Alzheimers has affected the part of the brain that controls spatial awareness.
Other visual problems to be aware of are hallucinations when your loved one begins to see things that arent there, and difficulty in understanding the things theyre looking at, such as struggling to recognise items are around their home.
Those with Alzheimers may also be unable to judge braking distances when driving too, making them a hazard on the roads. This is another indication that elderly care provisions need to be put into place for your loved ones safety.
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When To Contact A Doctor
A person who experiences any of these symptoms or notices them in a loved one should speak with a medical professional.
According to the Alzheimers Association, it is a myth that cognitive functioning always worsens as a person gets older. While minor forgetfulness can be a normal part of the aging process, if symptoms start to affect a persons everyday life, they may be serious. Signs of cognitive decline may signal dementia or another illness for which doctors can provide support.
Although there is no cure for dementia yet, a doctor can help slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms. This can improve a persons quality of life.
Symptoms Specific To Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, often called “mixed dementia”.
Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, although memory loss may not be as obvious in the early stages.
Symptoms can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, but they can also develop gradually over many months or years.
Specific symptoms can include:
- stroke-like symptoms: including muscle weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the body
- movement problems difficulty walking or a change in the way a person walks
- thinking problems having difficulty with attention, planning and reasoning
- mood changes depression and a tendency to become more emotional
Read more about vascular dementia.
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Warning Signs Of Dementia Infographic
Our infographic showing 10 warning signs of dementia.
- Date:02nd June 2017
Every person is unique and dementia effects every individual differently, with no two people experiencing symptoms in exactly the same way. Symptoms also vary by type of dementia. Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. 10 of the most common warning signs are shown below and depicted in the infographic:
If these signs are new, they may be a sign of dementia. Dementia is not a part of normal aging. If you think that these problems are affecting your daily life, or the life of someone you know, you should talk to your doctor or seek out more information from your national Alzheimer or dementia association.
Conditions With Symptoms Similar To Dementia
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections, hormonal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
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Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government Tel. 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
What Happens In The Early Stage Of Dementia
Dementia affects everyone differently and early symptoms are often relatively mild and not always easy to notice.
Many people at the early stage of dementia stay largely independent and only need a bit of assistance with daily living. It is important to focus on what the person can do and not to take over and do things for them. Instead, try doing things with them, for example helping the person develop a routine, reminder lists and prompts, and use technology.
For more information for people living with dementia, see the ‘Keeping active and involved‘ page.
The early stage of dementia is when many people choose to make plans for the future, while they still have the ability to do so. This includes making a Lasting power of attorney , and advance decisions and advance statements to ensure their wishes and preferences are made clear.
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Symptoms In The Later Stages Of Dementia
As dementia progresses, memory loss and difficulties with communication often become severe. In the later stages, the person is likely to neglect their own health, and require constant care and attention.
The most common symptoms of advanced dementia include:
- memory problems people may not recognise close family and friends, or remember where they live or where they are
- communication problems some people may eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. Using non-verbal means of communication, such as facial expressions, touch and gestures, can help
- mobility problems many people become less able to move about unaided. Some may eventually become unable to walk and require a wheelchair or be confined to bed
- behavioural problems a significant number of people will develop what are known as “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia”. These may include increased agitation, depressive symptoms, anxiety, wandering, aggression, or sometimes hallucinations
- bladder incontinence is common in the later stages of dementia, and some people will also experience bowel incontinence
- appetite and weight loss problems are both common in advanced dementia. Many people have trouble eating or swallowing, and this can lead to choking, chest infections and other problems. Alzheimer’s Society has a useful factsheet on eating and drinking
What Are The Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in the onset and progression of Alzheimers disease. It seems likely that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems appear. During this preclinical stage of Alzheimers disease, people seem to be symptom-free, but toxic changes are taking place in the brain.
Damage occurring in the brain of someone with Alzheimers disease begins to show itself in very early clinical signs and symptoms. For most people with Alzheimersthose who have the late-onset varietysymptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Signs of early-onset Alzheimers begin between a persons 30s and mid-60s.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers disease. Decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimers disease. And some people may be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. As the disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.
Alzheimers disease progresses in several stages: preclinical, mild , moderate, and severe .
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The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
The Effects Of Alzheimers On The Brain
In people with Alzheimers disease, brain cells die and connections between brain cells may break down. One of the hallmark symptoms is abnormal protein deposits in the brain called plaques and tangles.
Plaques are dense clusters of protein that can block communication between neurons. Tangles are proteins that twist together that lead to the death of healthy brain cells.
In advanced Alzheimers, the brain shows significant shrinkage. Changes in the brain may occur a or more before symptoms start.
Its impossible to diagnose Alzheimers with complete accuracy while a person is alive. The diagnosis can only be confirmed when the brain is examined under a microscope during an autopsy. However, specialists can make the correct diagnosis up to 90 percent of the time.
The symptoms of Alzheimers and dementia can overlap, but there can be some differences.
Both conditions can cause:
- behavioral changes
- difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease
Some types of dementia will share some of these symptoms, but they include or exclude other symptoms that can help make a differential diagnosis.
Lewy body dementia , for example, has many of the same later symptoms as Alzheimers. However, people with LBD but are more likely to experience initial symptoms such as visual hallucinations, difficulties with balance, and sleep disturbances.
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Medical West Cares About Your Mental Health
Noticing changes in your cognitive abilities can be concerning, but we are here to offer support. Medical West is dedicated to providing world-class healthcare for your and your loved ones. To schedule an appointment or learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s care and detection, visit Medical West’s website today. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, Medical West is here for you from the first visit on!
Common Forms Of Dementia
There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and may contribute to 60-70% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies , and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia . Dementia may also develop after a stroke or in the context of certain infections such as HIV, harmful use of alcohol, repetitivephysical injuries to the brain or nutritional deficiencies. The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
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Early Sign Of Dementia
Many signs of dementia begin small and progress with time. Noticing dementia symptoms at their onset can help you or your loved one get proper medical care right away. Keep a look out for the following early-onset dementia signs:
- Problems with short term memory
- Losing track of your wallet or purse
- Difficulty planning or preparing meals
- Forgetting to pay bills on time
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or others, it’s best to make a doctor’s appointment.
Trouble With Visual Images Or Spatial Relationships
People with Alzheimers can develop vision problems that are above and beyond age-related issues such as cataracts. They may have difficulty reading, determining colour or patterns, or judging distance. They might think that someone else is looking at them from a mirror or be unable to see a meal apart from the plate it is on. At Dementia Support, we combat these issues by providing clean and open spaces, to make tasks as simple and straight forward as possible. We avoid complex patterning and unnecessary clutter to prevent any stress that may be caused by an inability to comprehend what those suffering from Alzheimers are looking at.
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Early Signs Of Dementia
Its not easy to spot the early signs of dementia in someone we are caring for. If a person is struggling to remember a name, follow a conversation or recall what they did yesterday, many of us may put it down to the fact that the person is getting older. But it may well be a warning that they are in the early stages of dementia.
Family, friends and care workers are likely to be the first to see the signs and play a key role in encouraging a person receiving care to see a GP.
Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less likely to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.
A carer speaking about his wifes early signs of dementia, healthtalk website
A doctor can help establish whether a person has dementia or a treatable illness or condition that can cause dementia-like symptoms, such as depression, a urinary infection or nutritional disorders.
Difficulties With Words And Language
Its not uncommon to lose the thread of a conversation, especially for those with hearing or communication problems. However, when it occurs frequently, this can be a sign of something more serious. Those with Alzheimers tend to repeat themselves and have trouble joining in with conversations, as they lose their train of thought more easily.
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Impact On Families And Carers
In 2019, informal carers spent on average 5 hours per day providing care for people living with dementia. This can be overwhelming . Physical, emotional and financial pressures can cause great stress tofamilies and carers, and support is required from the health, social, financial and legal systems. Fifty percent of the global cost of dementia is attributed to informal care.