Dementia

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What is Dementia?

Dementia is a Major Neurocognitive Disorder that is characterized by loss of intellectual abilities in one or more of the following areas:

  • Memory
  • Reasoning ability
  • Language skills
  • Abstract thinking
  • Visuospatial ability
  • Executive Functioning
  • Personality and behavioral changes

 

While Alzheimer’s Dementia is probably the most well known type of dementia, there are four main types of dementia, including: Alzheimer’s Dementia (60 to 75% of cases ), Lewy Body Dementia (10 to 20%), Vascular Dementia (5 to 10%)  Frontotemporal Dementia (also known as Pick’s disease; 8%). There also are over 70 different causes of dementia, including, but not limited to:

  • Dementia due to Head Trauma
  • Dementia due to HIV Disease
  • Dementia due to Parkinson’s Disease
  • Dementia due to Huntington’s Disease
  • Dementia due to Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease
  • Alcohol-Induced Persisting Dementia

Dementia vs. Normal Aging

Perhaps a word or a name escapes the mind, keys disappear and reappear in an unusual place, a bill is forgotten for the first time, or you find yourself at a location and can’t quite recall why you went there in the first place. The first signs of memory loss can be scary for older adults and/or their loved ones; for others, these experiences may be easily dismissed as “senior moments”. While some decline in attention, short-term memory, and processing speed can be a normal part of aging, dementia is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury. Determining the difference between normal cognitive declines and the early or beginning stages of dementia can be difficult even for medical practitioners and neurologists. Sometimes older adults and their loved ones feel strongly that a noticeable change has occurred that is impacting their daily lives, relationships or independence, but brain scans do not show signs of the disease (which may not be apparent until later in the disease).

Common Symptoms of Dementia

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Poor judgment or faulty reasoning
  • Difficulties with abstract thinking
  • Has a hard time following directions
  • Inability to learn a new task
  • Has difficulty with routine tasks such as paying the bills
  • Does not recognize or confused about familiar people
  • Uncharacteristic or inappropriate behavior
  • Loss of communication skills
  • Lost or disoriented in familiar places
  • Gait, motor, and balance problems
  • Neglect of personal care and safety
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, or agitation
  • Loss of interest in social situations

Memory Testing

Memory testing can be done by completing a neuropsychological assessment, which is a set of tests that measure performance in the areas of memory, speed, problem-solving and complex cognitive tasks. It can assist older adults, their loved ones, and their medical care practitioners to better identify early signs of dementia and monitor the progression of the disease over time. Early diagnosis of dementia can provide older adults and their families the opportunity to plan for their futures or seek out early interventions. A neuropsychological assessment typically involves the following:

  • An interview with the older adult and a family member
  • 2-3 hours of neuropsychological testing
    • Memory & language tests
    • Executive Functioning tasks
    • Visual-Spatial tests
    • Processing Speed tests
    • Problem-solving tasks

 

Memory testing for dementia is covered by Medicare. For more info see Rates & Fees.