Symptoms of dementia

Dementia is when a person consistently has difficulty remembering, concentrating, learning new things, thinking clearly or making decisions that affect their everyday life. Typical signs of cognitive decline include:

  • Loss of memory, particularly short-term memory
  • Increasing confusion
  • Reduced concentration
  • Impaired judgement
  • Language problems
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Personality or behavior change

Whether this decline is temporary or ongoing depends on the underlying cause or causes.

 

What is dementia?

Cognitive decline in older adults can be caused by a variety of things, including medication side effects, metabolic or endocrine imbalance, delirium due to illness or dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common type.

 

What causes dementia?

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected.

Common causes of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most common cause of dementia.
  • Vascular dementia. This may occur in people who have long-term high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, or several small strokes. Strokes are the second most common cause of dementia.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Dementia is common in people with this condition.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies. It can cause short-term memory loss.
  • Frontotemporal dementia. This is a group of diseases that includes Pick’s disease.
  • Severe head injury.

Less common causes of dementia include:

  • Huntington’s disease.
  • Leukoencephalopathies. These are diseases that affect the deeper, white-matter brain tissue.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This is a rare and fatal condition that destroys brain tissue.
  • Some cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Multiple-system atrophy. This is a group of degenerative brain diseases that affect speech, movement, and autonomic function.
  • Infections such as late-stage syphilis. Antibiotics work well to treat syphilis at any stage, but they can’t reverse the brain damage already done.
  • Inherited dementia

Some disorders that cause dementia can run in families. Doctors often suspect an inherited cause if someone younger than 50 has symptoms of dementia.

Stage 1Stages 2 & 3Stage 4
Individuals normally need little or no
help with their daily activities.May still drive, work and participate in favourite activities.
Increasing level of care required as
cognitive abilities decline and daily life is disrupted. Routine tasks become difficult; personality and behavior changes are common.Care is generally provided by family members or friends, supported by formal/professional caregivers (if they can be afforded).These are the people most in need
of community support
Individuals become bed-bound and physical health is impaired.

Round-the-clock care is required, often in a memory care facility.

CarePartners Initiative is focused primarily on families in Stages 2 and 3.
There is no medical cure for dementia. But, with the proper support, people with the disease and those who take care of them can still enjoy a quality life.