What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a symptom of brain disease, in which the victim’s memory, cognition, use of language, judgment, personality, emotions, and behaviors deteriorate.  Early stage dementia changes include trouble finding names of familiar objects, losing things, getting lost, decreased social skills, flat mood, and difficulty with tasks that used to come easily.  In middle stage dementia, these problems worsen.  One begins to forget details of one’s own life, change sleep patterns, experience difficulty reading or writing, lose recognition of danger, speak confusing sentences, withdraw socially, initiate violent behavior, have delusions or depression or agitation, and have difficulty with basic life tasks.  In advanced stage dementia, victims no longer speak or understand, recognize family members, or manage daily living tasks.  Incontinence and swallowing may become troublesome.

Most types of dementia are degenerative; the victim’s brain does not recover function it loses.  Most dementia is progressive, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.  Dementia can also be caused by Parkinson’s disease, MS, Huntington’s disease, Pick’s disease, some infections, chronic alcohol abuse, small brain strokes, low vitamin B12 levels, and brain tumors, among other causes.  While some of these causes of dementia are reversible, most causes of dementia are not reversible.  Dementia is rare in persons under sixty years of age.  Risk of dementia rises with age.

It may be difficult to distinguish early stage dementia from depression.  A person suffering either should seek medical attention.

Dementia is a common disease among the elderly.  Its effects and prevalence make providing care for the victims of dementia challenging, and necessitate the use of durable powers of attorney, guardianships, elder care teams, and graduated care facilities.