Age-related conditions, particularly those impacting cognitive abilities, are poorly understood by the general public, which can lead to anxiety and misconceptions about the condition. It is important to understand how to identify the symptoms of dementia in order to get the best treatment from your physician.
Dementia is not a specific condition, it is a “catch-all” term for any condition in which mental ability has declined enough to interfere with the functions of daily life. Dementia is often caused by Alzheimer’s disease, though not always.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Memory loss is just one example of the symptoms associated with dementia. However, simple forgetfulness or absent-minded behaviors are not enough to warrant a diagnosis of dementia. True memory loss means being unable to recognize immediate family members or close friends, forgetting where one is or how to get home, and other debilitating memory loss problems.
Furthermore, many people still hold the misconception that serious mental decline is a normal part of the aging process. This is not true, and if you or a loved one experience serious impairment in any two of the following mental functions, contact a physician immediately:
- Language and communication
- Focus and ability to maintain attention
- Visual perception
- Judgment and reasoning
Dementia is often depicted as inevitable or untreatable, which could not be further from the truth.
If identified in the beginning stages, dementia is treatable and sometimes reversible. Speak to a neurologist about the causes of your dementia and how to treat them. Some examples of effective treatments are:
- Taking an inventory of medications currently being taken, some may lead to memory loss or confusion, especially in older patients
- Treating an infection such as encephalitis
- Anti-depressants sometimes help, as depression is sometimes misdiagnosed as dementia in older patients
- Removal of a brain tumor or other ways to reduce pressure on the brain
- Thyroid hormones are effective in treating hypothyroidism
- A B12 deficiency could be the culprit; taking vitamin supplements may help
In some cases, the causes of dementia in a particular patient may be untreatable. In this case, it is important to research palliative care options. Many associate palliative care with end of life services, but it is also designed to improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers.
Work with your neurologist and palliative care providers to create a care plan. A diagnosis of dementia can lead to unbearable anxiety, fear, or even anger. Home care and maintaining independence for the patient are ways to ease the transition into a new lifestyle.
Contact one of the professionals at KCA Neurology to find out how we can help treat dementia you or a loved one may experience.