Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a syndrome caused by one or more disorders that affect the brain.
Memory loss is the most common symptom, but people also can experience problems with language, have difficulty solving problems, undergo personality and behavior changes, and can struggle with activities of daily living, such as dressing and feeding oneself. About 90% of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or varying degrees in combination of the two.
If you're concerned about memory loss, see your doctor. There are tests designed to determine the degree of memory impairment and diagnose the cause.
Your doctor will likely ask you questions to help assess your situation. It's very helpful to have a family member or friend along to answer some questions based on observations. Questions might include:
The goal of treatment is to maintain the quality of life of the person with dementia for as long as possible.
Certain medicines can slow down dementia, but they do not cure it. Treatment for memory and other thinking skills can help. This is especially true early on, and it also may help as the dementia gets worse.
A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) can help a person with dementia remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. The SLP may work on attention, memory, problem solving, and higher-level thinking skills. Some strategies utilized may include:
The SLP also can work with the patient to ensure safely eating different types of foods or eating in different ways. Family members and caregivers can support the person with dementia by making sure they eat enough foods for balanced nutrition.
If you care for someone with dementia, you may also learn helpful information from a speech therapist. They offer support to caretakers who wish to learn how to manage their loved one’s symptoms.
A dementia patient’s behavior is often triggered by specific conditions related to their direct environment, so learning how to communicate with your loved one can make a tremendous difference in their wellbeing.
Improved communication among patient and caretaker can also lead to a better quality of life for everyone. It minimizes stress and anxiety while fostering a stronger sense of peer relations.