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Basics of Dementia

Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that affect thinking, memory, reasoning, planning, language, and/or social skills to the point that it affects everyday life. There are many types and causes of dementia symptoms. Some important things to remember:
  • Dementia is not a specific disease.
  • Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not the same thing.
  • Dementia is not just an “old person’s disease”. Diagnoses can happen as early as 20 years of age.
  • Being human means forgetting is a normal part of life. Having dementia means the symptoms of forgetfulness interfere with daily activities.
  • There is more to dementia than just poor memory.
Dementia is an umbrella term for the common symptoms. There are many different types of dementia disease.
Just to name a few:

· Alzheimer’s Disease
· Lewy Body Dementia
· Vascular Dementia
· Frontotemporal Dementia
· Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
· Substance-Induced Dementia

How Do You Know If It’s Dementia?

Many types of dementia are progressive, meaning signs & symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. These symptoms can vary greatly. Below are the 10 early signs according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty complete familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
4. Confusion with time & place.
5. Trouble understanding visual images & spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgement.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality, including apathy & depression.

Sometimes a person with dementia will show changes in behavior, some of which can be hard for others to understand and work through. These changes are caused by the dementia changing the person's brain, making it hard for that person to communicate or understand the world around him/her. Here are common examples:
  • Yelling
  • Pacing
  • Hallucination
  • Striking out
  • Repeating
  • Pushing
  • Wandering
  • Delusion
  • Swearing
  • Wanting to go "home"
  • Suspicious
Is Dementia Treatable?

Sometimes dementia symptoms actually come from other conditions that are treatable. These symptoms can go away with treatment. Here are a few examples:

· Thyroid disorders
· Infection
· Depression
· Sleep apnea
· Vitamin deficiencies

Other dementia symptoms caused by progressive diseases, such Alzheimer's disease or Lewy Body dementia, are not curable, but treatment focuses on keeping the person's quality of life the best it can be for as long as possible.

If you think you or a loved one are showing possible signs and symptoms of dementia, contact your doctor. A medical professional can determine if the symptoms are indeed caused by one of the conditions above, or if further testing needs to be done to determine if dementia is the cause.

If you or your loved ones have questions about dementia, contact the ADRC of Brown County any time. The staff at the ADRC have years of experience working with people with dementia and their support systems. From the first signs of memory loss, to dealing with a very progressive diagnosis, you can find comfort and support with just one phone call (920-448-4300).

Forms require Acrobat Reader. Click the button to download the latest version FREE.

  • Dementia Handbook
    This handbook, published by the ADRC of Brown County, is loaded with information and resources to guide you through the journey of dementia. It will be helpful if you are a caregiver, professional, or person who has been diagnosed with demenita.

  • The Basics of Dementia
    Use this visual guide to better understand the common types of dementia and their symptoms (Alzheimer's disease, Vascular dementias, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal Lobe dementias).

  • Dementia Fact Sheet
    Learn about the different kinds of dementia and some of the treatments in this handout from the Wisconsin Department of Health & Human Services (DHS).

  • Understanding Memory Loss
    With this booklet produced by the National Institute on Aging, learn about the different between mild forgetfulness & serious memory problems, causes of memory issues & how they can be treated, and how to cope with serious memory problems.

  • Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour
    Take a tour of the brain with the Alzheimer's Association. Learn how the brain works and how Alzheimer's disease affects it.

  • What is Alzheimer's Disease?
    These short "pocket" films from the Alliance for Aging Research are designed to be viewed anywhere. Take a minute to reduce stigma, improve care, and help the public fight against the disease.

  • Structures in the Brain Affected by Alzheimer's Disease
    Find out what parts of the brain are responsible for each function, and how these areas are impacted by Alzheimer's disease. Published from the Northeastern Ohio University study "A Model Intervention for Elder Abuse and Dementia Curriculum".
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