What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe various conditions which damage brain cells and lead to a loss of brain function over time. It causes a progressive decline in mental functioning including a decline in memory, reasoning, communication skills and gradual loss of skills needed to carry out daily activities.
Most people develop symptoms gradually over a period of years and its progression can be different for each individual due to which parts of the brain are affected.
Currently in Ireland there are over 65,000 people with Dementia and it is forecasted this will increase to over 150,000 by 2045.
- Family History
- Increasing age >65 years of age
- Health Conditions & Diseases such as Diabetes, Hypertension, High Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis.
- Downs Syndrome – Many people with DS develop Early Onset signs of Dementia by the time they reach middle age.
- There is no one test to diagnose dementia. Rather, the diagnosis involves a range of assessments and tests and this can mean that confirming a diagnosis can take time, particularly in the early stages.
- Diagnosis and intervention can improve the quality of life for the person with Dementia
- This usually begins with a GP where they will begin an assessment by ruling out other possible causes of symptoms being experienced.
- These can include
- Physical Exam
- Memory Tests
- Blood Tests
- Brain Scan such as CT or MRI to identify any changes taking place in the brain
- Overview of Persons General Health
Types of Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with cognitive impairment.
- Alzheimer’s 50% – 75%
- Vascular 20% – 30%
- Lewy Body 10% – 25%
- Frontotemperal 10% -15%
• Sadly, there is no cure for Dementia, however there are treatments that can help and, in some cases, slow the progression of the disease.
• Medications to treat Alzheimer’s Disease including Donepezil, Memantine, Rivastigmine & Galantamine.
• Medications to treat related conditions that affect the symptoms of Dementia such as depression, stroke, cardiac problems and diabetes.
• Medication to treat challenging behaviour: In the latter stages of Dementia, a significant amount of people can develop behavioural and psychological symptoms including wandering, aggression, delusions & increased agitation.