Dementia – What is it?
Dementia is the name for a group of illnesses that affect the brain. There are several types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Becoming forgetful and experiencing confusion can be early signs of dementia but they may also be symptoms of other factors such as infection, stress, depression, medication side effects and possibly the incidence of other physical health problems. As the disease progresses it affects the ability to manage activities of daily living such as personal hygiene, cooking, and social interaction. Sadly there is no cure at present but there are treatments that can slow the process and the provision of support to manage the symptoms.
What is the cause?
To function normally the body requires messages which are sent from the brain. These messages tell us what to do, how to react and retain memories. When some of the brain cells become damaged they are not able to receive and send messages as efficiently and this interruption causes confusion and forgetfullness. In turn the inability to carry out previously easy skills , the possibility of not recognising your family, friends and surroundings can give rise to varied levels of anxiety, fear, anger, and paranoia. The memory can fluctuate and sometimes long term memory is more accessible than recent events.
- lots of people have dementia and live fulfilled lives
- because it is a common illness, there’s a lot of help available
- there are lots of simple ways of helping people adapt to their new circumstances
Being old doesn’t automatically mean you will get dementia. It is just more common in the elderly.
Which types of Dementia can we accommodate?
With Alzheimer’s individual brain cells become damaged. The numbers of damaged cells gradually increase over time and the brain starts to function less efficiently. It starts slowly, and the decline can happen over a number of years. It usually affects short–term memory first.and gradually everyday tasks become more and more difficult.
As the name suggests this type of dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells following an interruption of blood flow through blood vessels and it is the second most common type of dementia. The blood supply can be interrupted or reduced due to a stroke or mini-strokes which are also known as Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIA’s). People with vascular dementia usually start to forget things and then they find it difficult to cope with daily activities.The effects of vascular dementia can vary depending on the severity of the mini-strokes/strokes.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy bodies cause this type of dementia and they are responsible for approximately 10% of dementias. The Lewy Bodies are very small deposits which damage the brain cells which affects their ability to send and receive messages. Other symptoms experienced can be hallucinations, rigidity, tremors and muscle weakness in limbs and it can be related to Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms can vary and fluctuate in severity from day to day thereby causing a difference in overall ability to manage daily tasks at differnet times.
Pick’s Disease and Fronto-Temporal Dementia
Damage affects the front and side of the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for movement, decision-making, problem solving, and planning. The temporal lobe is responsible for hearing, sound, language, and processing sensory information. These types of dementia are not normally associated with memory loss but cause behavioural symptoms such as mood changes, inability to plan ahead, and have difficulties judging the timing of their actions or when actions are appropriate.
Korsakoff’s syndrome is an alcohol related dementia and causes short term memory loss. It is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 which could be due to malnutrition, but more commonly due to the inability of the body to absorb Vitamin B1 due to damage caused by excessive alcohol intake. Appropriate treatment can halt the progression of the disease and with a specific treatment programme sometimes the effects can be reversed or improved.
The descriptions above relate to the main types of dementia. However, we can also care for residents with dementia resulting from other conditions:
- Huntingdon’s disease
- Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease
- HIV or AIDS
- head injuries
- Down’s syndrome