Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider.
Dementia, a set of symptoms, is the umbrella term for disabling effects on thinking, remembering, reasoning, emotions and behavior. Dementias are caused by damaged brain cells, not a normal part of aging.
There are several different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of disability in the United States, is the most common type. Many types of dementia worsen over time. There are no known cures at this point, but some symptoms can be improved by medications.
Some studies are pointing to healthy lifestyle choices as possible preventive measures such as eating a healthy diet, staying socially active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, and exercising both the body and mind. People with dementias frequently suffer from chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, which along with head injury and stroke, may increase the risks for dementias.
The risk of developing dementia is more explicitly linked to older age, gender and genetics. Women are more often impacted by dementia than men. People with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease are generally considered to be at greater risk of developing the disease.
African Americans and Latinos are generally at greater risk than Caucasians. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are more often undiagnosed in rural and minority populations than in urban or white populations, and still, many primary care providers do not routinely test for dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) states that, “Recruiting and retaining trial participants is now the greatest obstacle, other than funding, to developing the next generation of Alzheimer’s treatments.” The AA is recruiting healthy and affected individuals for these trials. See their website for info (link at the end of the story).
There are other conditions that may be mistaken for dementia, especially when they occur in the elderly. Any of these conditions should be evaluated by a healthcare provider without delay:
Medication side effects
Some tumors and infections in the brain
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Another major area for concern is how best to support family caregivers. Caregiving for persons with progressively worsening loss of cognitive abilities can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
Family caregivers need support with social, behavioral and legal resources. They need even simple breaks, a chance to get away from what is literally 24/7 care, before they become ill themselves.
These caregivers are usually female and unpaid. They may well be doing double duty caring for children and spouses. The current pandemic only complicates matters for those caring for family at home and increasing worry, anxiety and concern if the family member is in a care facility. Please see the helpful links below.
The AA offers free online support group meetings facilitated by trained persons for caregivers and for the affected individuals themselves. They also run a 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.
Some information above taken from: