Mate Wareware Action Plan
What is Dementia?
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person's normal social or working life. The hallmark of dementia is the inability to carry out everyday activities as a consequence of diminished cognitive ability. Doctors diagnose dementia if two or more cognitive functions are significantly impaired. The cognitive functions affected can include memory, language skills, understanding information, spatial skills, judgement and attention. People with dementia may have difficulty solving problems and controlling their emotions. They may also experience personality changes. The exact symptoms experienced by a person with dementia depend on the areas of the brain that are damaged by the disease causing the dementia. The condition is usually progressive; the disease gradually spreads through the brain and the person's symptoms get worse over time.
Who gets Dementia?
Dementia can happen to anybody, but the risk increases with age. Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that most older people do not get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing, but is caused by brain disease. Less commonly, people under the age of 65 years develop dementia and this is called 'younger onset dementia'. There are a few very rare forms of inherited dementia, where a specific gene mutation is known to cause the disease. In most cases of dementia however, these genes are not involved, but people with a family history of dementia do have an increased risk.
Certain health and lifestyle factors also appear to play a role in a person's risk of dementia. People with untreated vascular risk factors including high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes have an increased risk, as do those who are less physically and mentally active.
Is it Dementia?
There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia. These can often be treated. They include some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication effects, infections and brain tumours.
It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information and medication should it be available.
What are the early signs of Dementia?
The early signs of dementia can be very subtle, vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:
• Progressive and frequent memory loss
• Personality change
• Apathy and withdrawal
• Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks
What can I do to help?
At present there is no cure for most forms of dementia. Some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms and other therapies can reduce the rate of progression.
The person diagnosed with dementia can also make plans for their future and their family can come to understand what is happening. Support is vital for people with dementia and the help of families, friends and carers can make a positive difference to managing the condition.
At Dementia Hawkes Bay, we have services that can help you and your loved one living with dementia.