Dementia: causes, symptoms, help – a guidebook
Dementia is not an independent clinical picture. In fact, the term dementia is used to describe a whole range of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social skills to such an extent that they interfere with everyday activities.
Dementia manifests as problems with at least two brain functions, such as. B. memory loss and impaired judgment or language impairments, as well as by the inability to perform certain daily activities, such as. B. paying bills or suddenly not knowing the way while driving a car.
Although memory loss generally occurs with dementia, it does not in itself mean that you actually have dementia. A certain degree of memory loss is a normal side effect of aging.
There are numerous causes of symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia. However, some of the causes of dementia can be reversed under certain circumstances.
The information provided on these web pages has been researched and compiled to the best of our knowledge and belief and is intended to provide some initial information on the subject. However, our information does not claim to be scientifically correct or complete, and we do not ame any liability for the correctness of its content. In particular, our web pages cannot replace a diagnosis or therapy by a specialist. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist for all medical questions.
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
– Forgetfulness – Communication or word-finding difficulties – Difficulties in accomplishing complex tasks – Difficulties in planning and organization – Disturbances in coordination and motor skills – Orientation problems, e.g. B. getting lost/getting lost
– Personality changes – Impaired judgment – Inappropriate (social) behavior – Paranoia (persecutory delusions) – Agitation – Hallucinations
When should you consult a doctor?
You should consult a doctor if you or a relative or friend have problems with memory or notice other dementia symptoms in yourself. Some treatable diseases can also cause dementia symptoms, so it is important that a doctor determines the underlying cause in each case.
Alzheimer's disease, as well as some other types of dementia, worsen over time. Early diagnosis gives you enough time to actively make decisions for the future, as long as you are able to do so.
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Dementia causes damage to the nerve cells in the brain, which can occur in different areas of the brain. Dementia affects people differently, depending on which area of the brain is affected.
Dementias can be classified in many ways, but most often this is done in groups, according to their common features, such as e. B. The area of the brain affected or whether the disease worsens over time (progressive dementias).
Some dementias, such as those caused by a drug reaction or infection, can be reversed with appropriate treatment.
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The different types of dementia
Among people aged 65 and older, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Generally, people do not develop. Alzheimer's is a disease that begins with symptoms at the age of 60, but there are also early-onset forms of the disease, often due to a genetic defect.
Although in most cases the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not known, plaques and so-called tangles are often found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The term 'plaques' refers to clumps of protein consisting of the protein beta-amyloid. Tangles are fibrillar deposits of the tau protein.
Certain genetic factors also increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease generally progresses slowly over a period of 8 – 10 years. The cognitive abilities of those affected gradually decline. Ultimately, the affected areas of the brain no longer function properly, including parts of the brain responsible for memory, language, judgment and spatial reasoning. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. The result of brain damage due to decreased or blocked blood flow in blood vessels leading to the brain.
Problems with blood vessels can result from a stroke, heart valve inflammation (endocarditis), or other (vascular) diseases of the blood vessels.
Symptoms usually start suddenly and often occur in hypertensive patients or in patients who have had a stroke or heart attack in the past.
There are several different types of vascular dementia, and they all have different causes and symptoms. This form of dementia can be concurrent with Alzheimer's disease. be accompanied by other dementias.
Lewy Body Dementia
Approximately 10 percent of dementia patients are affected by Lewy body dementia. It is therefore one of the most common forms of dementia. Lewy body dementia is more common with age.
Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that have been found in the brains of patients with Lewy body dementia as well as those with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Symptoms for Lewy body dementia are similar to those of Alzheimer's disease. Distinctive characteristics include fluctuations between states of confusion and clear thinking (lucidity), visual hallucinations, and tremor (shaking) and rigor (muscle stiffness) – both symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
People with Lewy body dementia often suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder, in which they actively physically relive their dreams.
This type of dementia usually occurs at an earlier age than Alzheimer's, generally between the ages of 50. and 70. Age.
This is a group of disorders characterized by the deterioration (breakdown) of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, those areas commonly associated with personality, social behavior and language.
Signs and symptoms of frontotemporal dementia can include inappropriate social behaviors, language finding difficulties, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and motor problems.
As with other dementias, the cause is unknown, although this type of dementia has been linked to certain gene mutations in some cases.
Numerous factors can ultimately lead to dementia. Some of these, such as z. B. Age, cannot be influenced. Others, however, can be fixed, reducing your risk of developing dementia.
Risk factors over which you have no control
The age. As people age, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and other dementias jumps, especially after age 65. Year of life. Nevertheless, dementia is not a normal accompanying factor of aging, and it can occur in younger people as well.
Family history. If there have been previous cases of dementia in your family, you have a greater risk of developing it as well. Despite this, it is often the case that people with a family history of the condition never develop symptoms and many others, with no previous family history of the condition, do. Certain gene mutations also significantly increase the risk of developing certain types of dementia. Tests are available to determine if you are affected by certain gene mutations.
Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome often develop the plaques and fibrillar deposits in the brain typical of Alzheimer's disease in middle age. Some of these can lead to dementia.
Risk factors that may affect you
You can do something to influence the following risk factors for dementia.
Alcohol abuse. People with a high alcohol intake have an increased risk of developing dementia. Although research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption can have a positive health effect, abusing alcohol significantly increases the risk of developing dementia.
– The buildup of fat and other substances (plaques) in and on the walls of your arteries can reduce blood flow to your brain and lead to strokes. Decreased blood flow to the brain can also result in vascular dementia.
Some research has shown that there may be a link between the condition of your blood vessels and Alzheimer's disease.
Blood prere. According to several studies, high or low blood prere can increase your risk of developing dementia. Cholesterol. If you have high LDL cholesterol, you may also have a higher risk of developing vascular dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Research continues to investigate the extent to which cholesterol affects dementia. Depression. Although it is still not fully understood why, old-age depression may nevertheless be a sign of the development of dementia, especially in men. Diabetes. If you suffer from diabetes, you may also have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. High estrogen levels. Women who continue to take estrogen and progesterone for years after menopause may also have a higher risk of developing dementia. Homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine (an amino acid made by the body) may increase your risk of developing vascular dementia. Obesity (being overweight). If you are overweight or obese in middle age, this can also increase your risk of developing dementia in old age. Smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of developing dementia and vascular disease.
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Lifestyle and support measures
People affected by dementia experience progression of their symptoms and behavioral problems over time. Therefore, it can be helpful if caregivers consider the following tips in certain situations:
Improve communication. Maintain eye contact with your loved one/caregiver when speaking. Speak slowly and in simple sentences; do not push for an answer. Offer only one thought or instruction at a time. Use gestures and signs, such as z. B. pointing to an object. Encourage exercise and sports. Physical exercise and sports are good for everyone, even people with dementia. The greatest benefits of exercise are increased physical strength. Improved cardiovascular health.
According to some research, physical activity can delay the progressive impairment of (cognitive) thinking skills in people with dementia.
Exercise and sport can also reduce depression symptoms, help maintain motor skills, and also have a calming effect. Rain the participation in games. Thinking activities on. Playing games, solving crossword puzzles, and other activities that require people to use active (cognitive) thinking skills can slow mental decline in dementia patients. Introduce bedtime rituals. Disease-related behavior often worsens at night. Try to establish bedtime rituals that are calming to the person with dementia and free from disruptions from television, cleanup, and active family members. Leave a snooze light on to prevent disorientation.
Limit caffeine intake during the day, prevent naps and other in-between naps, and provide opportunities for exercise during the day to help prevent nighttime agitation.
Encourage keeping a calendar. Keeping a reminder calendar can help your loved one remember upcoming events, daily activities, and medication schedules. Consider keeping a calendar with your loved one. Plan for the future. Develop a plan with your loved one in which you set care goals for the future. Various caregiver support groups, legal counselors, family members, and others can help you do this. Financial and legal aspects, ies related to safety and circumstances of daily living, and long-term care options should also be considered.
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Dementia can affect the functioning of many body systems while also affecting the ability to perform everyday tasks. Severe problems that can be caused by dementia include:
Inadequate or insufficient nutrition. Many people with dementia reduce their eating-. Drinking behavior or eventually even stop it altogether. They may forget to eat or drink, or they may think they have already eaten. Changes in mealtimes or distraction by environmental noise can affect their eating behavior.
Often, dementia in advanced stages causes loss of control over chewing and swallowing muscles. This may create a risk of choking. Food debris may be inhaled into the lungs. This can block breathing. Result in pneumonia.
In addition, the feeling of hunger, and with it, the desire to eat, is lost. Depression, drug side effects, constipation and other medical conditions can also decrease interest in food intake.
Poor hygiene. In the moderate to severe stages of dementia, people eventually lose the ability to perform tasks of daily living independently. They may be unable to shower, dress, brush their hair, brush their teeth, or go to the bathroom on their own. Difficulty taking medications. As memory is impaired, taking the right medication at the right time can become a real challenge. Deterioration of emotional health. Dementia changes (social) behavior and personality. Some of these changes may be caused by the deterioration actually taking place in the brain, while other changes in behavior and personality are more emotional coping responses to the changes in the brain.
Dementia can lead to depression, aggressive behavior, confusion, frustration, anxiety, uninhibited behavior and disorientation.
Communication problems. As dementia progresses, you may lose the ability to remember the names of people and things. You may have difficulty communicating with or understanding others.
Communication problems can cause feelings of anger, isolation and depression.
Delusions and hallucinations. Possibly developing delusions in which one gets caught up in false ideas about fellow humans or life situations. Some patients, especially those with Lewy body dementia, may also suffer from visual hallucinations. Trouble sleeping. May be dealing with sleep disturbances, such as z. B. Waking up early in the morning. Some patients with dementia suffer from restless legs syndrome or REM sleep behavior disorder, which can also interfere with sleep.
Personal safety challenges. Due to a diminished ability to make decisions and solve problems, some everyday situations can pose serious safety problems for people with dementia. These include driving, cooking, falling, getting lost/stuck, and dealing with obstacles. A diagnosis of dementia can leave you. Throw your loved ones completely off track. Many details need to be considered to ensure that you and those around you are as prepared as possible for dealing with a condition that is unpredictable and subject to constant change.
Care and support for the person affected by the disease
As the disease progresses, you may go through a range of emotions. Here are some tips to better cope:
– – Learn as much as you can about memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Write down your experiences. Feelings with a diagnosis of dementia in a diary. – – Join a local support group. – – Get individual or family counseling. – – Talk to a member of your church congregation or another person who can help you with spiritual advice. – – Stay active and involved, volunteer, exercise, and participate in activities for people with memory loss. – – Keep in touch with others and spend time with friends and family. – – Become part of an online community with people going through experiences similar to yours. – – Make out new ways of expressing oneself, z. B. by painting, singing or writing. – – Seek help in making decisions from someone you trust. – – Have patience with yourself.
Help for a person suffering from dementia
You can help a person diagnosed with dementia cope by listening to them, rearing them that they can still enjoy life, and by being supportive and positive and doing your best to help them maintain their dignity and self-respect. Caring for a person with dementia is a physically. Mentally demanding activity. Often the primary caregiver is the spouse or other family member.