What is dementia?
Dementia is the umbrella term that covers a range of neurological conditions that involve a decline in memory, thinking and brain function. The most well known, common cause and type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Most people who suffer from dementia are over 65 years of age, however, this form of mental deterioration is not a normal part of ageing and many people well over the age of 65 do not suffer from dementia. However, It may also develop at an earlier age and it is called younger-onset dementia when it develops between the ages of 40-60.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has dementia, you should consult a medical professional. There are many symptoms of dementia that are shared with other conditions, such as brain tumours and vitamin deficiencies, so it is important for you both physically and emotionally to have an accurate diagnosis.
What are some of the signs?
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Motor function difficulties
- Difficulties with coordination
- Memory loss
- Problems with speaking, reading writing
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate laughing or crying
What can cause dementia?
Brain cell death is associated with dementia, including progressive brain cell death that happens over time, however, it is currently not known if the dementia causes the brain cell death, or the brain cell death causes the dementia.
- Diseases or stroke that prevents normal blood flow and deprives the brain cells of oxygen, resulting in brain cell death
- Traumatic brain injury.
- Prion disease
- HIV infection
- Reversible factors such as medications, depression, vitamin deficiencies and thyroid abnormalities.
Strategies to help manage dementia
While there is currently no known prevention or cure for most types of dementia, support is vital for individuals with the condition, and a huge difference can be made through the help of friends, families and carers. Making practical changes can help the individual with dementia as well as aid surrounding loved ones.
There are medications available to reduce some of the symptoms experienced by people with dementia, such as emotional, memory and thinking problems as well as issues like sleeping disturbances. It's important to always consult your doctor before taking any medication to help understand how different drugs may interact with each other.
- Set up a system to minimise confusion in the home, by keeping things organised, calm and simple
- Provide meaningful activities to reduce boredom
- Seek support from friends and family
- Support groups and counselling for individuals with dementia as well as their carers
When to seek professional assistance
If you suspect that you, or someone you know, is suffering from dementia it important to seek assistance as soon as possible. Psychology Melbourne offers counselling to individuals diagnosed with dementia, to help them understand the diagnosis as well as work through the emotions that may be encountered, such as feelings of depression and anxiety. Having a loved one suffer from dementia can also be incredibly confronting and difficult, and Psychology Melbourne also offers support and counselling for family members/support persons after a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.