What is Dementia

Dementia is the loss of cognitive function, a serious condition that can have an impact on daily life. While 60 - 80% of individuals with dementia also have probable Alzheimer's disease, you can have dementia without having Alzheimer's disease. Other conditions also include dementia as a component, including:

  • Parkinson's-associated Dementia (Lewy Body Disease) 
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Mixed Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease 

Up to half of all people over 80 in the U.S. have some form of dementia. Cognitive changes associated with dementia are often subtle; it can manifest as a slow erosion of your ability to remember things, recognize people, and care for yourself. Many treatments are available to help you cope with the progression of dementia. 

Dementia Symptoms

Dementia symptoms can be different in every person. Dementia can develop slowly, making it hard to separate dementia symptoms from regular signs of aging. You should talk to your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms that could indicate dementia. Your doctor can perform tests and scans to determine if you have dementia. Common dementia symptoms to look for include:

  • Difficulty in thinking or judgment, an inability to weigh consequences, and inappropriate behavior
  • Trouble remembering where you are, where you are going, or where you live, even in familiar surroundings
  • An inability to recall details about current events or recent activities
  • Problems doing mathematics or handling money
  • Difficulty remembering names and faces, even with close friends and family
  • Having hallucinations or becoming paranoid
  • Striking out violently, becoming abnormally agitated, and having sudden mood swings
  • Losing self-awareness or forgetting your own life events
  • Problems recalling words or the names of things
  • Difficulty with speech, composing sentences, or writing
  • Being unable to perform basic daily activities without supervision like bathing, eating, drinking, and taking medication, or caring for your home
  • Changes in sleep patterns or insomnia
  • Personality changes, changes in social skills, and social isolation

Dementia Causes and Risk Factors

Most types of dementia are caused by deterioration in the brain’s thinking and memory areas as it ages. Certain health conditions and diseases can accelerate the development of dementia. There are some risk factors that can make you more likely to develop dementia like:

  • A family history of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or another cognitive impairment
  • Injuries to the brain, like a stroke or trauma
  • Abnormal protein structures in parts of the brain
  • Uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced age
  • Thickening of blood vessel walls (atherosclerosis)

Dementia Treatment

There is no cure for dementia, and there is no way to stop it from progressing. Many treatments, medications, and therapies can help you learn to cope with the bothersome dementia symptoms in yourself or a loved one.

Medication: There is no medication that will slow or cure dementia, but many medications are available to help alleviate some of the symptoms and complications that come with dementia.

Therapy: Many types of therapy can be helpful for managing dementia symptoms, including speech therapy, cognitive stimulation therapy, behavioral therapy, and other types of treatment. The Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt can help you make a therapy plan. 

Education: Learning more about dementia and how it progresses is helpful for both you and your caregivers. Get more information about mental health conditions, treatments, and therapies. 

Support: Getting the right kind of support can help you feel more like yourself. See our current support groups available at Sheppard Pratt.