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Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affect cognitive functions of the brain. Dementia is loss of memory and ability to communicate and solve problems. Dementia can impair people’s ability to perform normal daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and eating and it can alter people’s personalities and lead to agitation, delusions, hallucinations and depression. It is important to note that although memory loss is a common aspect of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems involving not only memory but also other brain functions, resulting in inability to carry out normal daily activities.
Symptoms of dementia can vary greatly between individuals.
Typically, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired for a diagnosis of dementia:
Warning signs to watch for if you are worried someone you love may be suffering from dementia:
Some diseases that can cause dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Doctors have identified other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms including reactions to medications, metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies, infections, poisoning, brain tumors, anoxia or hypoxia (conditions in which the brain’s oxygen supply is either reduced or cut off entirely), and heart and lung problems.
Although it is common in very elderly individuals, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process.
Drugs to specifically treat Alzheimer’s disease and some other progressive dementias are now available. Although these drugs do not halt the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they can improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.