Dementia is a state associated with general decline in mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Memory loss is an example, and Alzheimer's is the cause for 60 to 80% of the cases. Many people show signs of dementia after undergoing a stroke. This is known as Vascular dementia – and is the 2nd most common cause of dementia. Impaired Thyroid function and some vitamin deficiencies can also cause dementia. Some of these are reversible. Besides memory, dementia can affect thinking and social behaviour depending on the portion of the brain where the damage occurred. Hence, the effect of dementia varies from person to person. It’s important to understand that senility is not dementia. Senility is an age-related factor and is not connected to dementia.
Dementia in India is quite common, and on the rise. Consulting a physician is highly recommended, if you or your loved ones experience the following symptoms.
- Change in behaviour
- Communication hurdles
- Organising self
- Motor function impairment.
- Thyroid problems
- Vitamin deficiencies
Factors like - Age, Mild cognitive impairment, Family background, Down's syndrome, etc. are difficult to control but, can be monitored. However, factors like heart ailment, intoxication, depression, diabetes, sleep, lifestyle, food habits, Apnoea, etc. can be controlled with the help of lifestyle changes and the right doctor.
Diagnosis of Dementia is a complicated task. A minimum two of the resulting imbalances in routine life is called for to ascertain the impedance of dementia.
- Memory loss
- Attention deficiency
- Inability to comprehend
- Inability to apply logic
- Incapability to visualise
Neurological evaluation with PET/CT /MRI scans as well as psychiatric profiling is used to assess the damage to the brain cells.Some cases of dementia are due to medical conditions that can be treated. While treatment can restore some or all most function, in most cases dementia does not get completely reversed.
Doctors evaluate a patient’s thinking (cognitive) function. Some tests measure thinking skills such as memory, orientation, reasoning and judgment, language skills, and attention.
As a part of diagnosis, doctors also evaluate the patient's memory, language, visual perception, attention, problem-solving, movement, senses, balance, reflexes and other areas.
Treating dementia involves boosting levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment.
There is no complete cure but only temporary relief for most of the progressive Dementias, including Alzheimer's disease. Physical/mental exercises and healthy food can reduce the impact of Dementia.
Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Galantamine, and Memantine get often prescribed – but must always be taken only upon physician’s prescription.
Also, there are alternate supportive medicinal systems available:
- Omega 3
- Vitamin B12 for vitamin deficiency
- Thyroid hormones for hypothyroidism
- Stopping or altering drugs that are causing memory loss/confusion
- Medicines for treating infections
- Palliative and caregiver’s care are highly recommended
Several Dementia symptoms and behaviour problems can be treated initially, using non-drug approaches, such as:
Modifying the environment:
- Reducing clutter and sound can make it easier for someone with Dementia to focus and function.
- Breaking tasks into more manageable steps with structured routine helps reduce confusion in people with Dementia.
- Music therapy, aromatherapy, massage therapy and occupational therapy are found to be beneficial.
- Getting involved in social activities, hobbies, etc. also benefits people with Dementia.
And above all – empathy, family support, and tolerance remain vital to dementia management.