What does Dementia really mean?

Updated: Mar 8

Dementia is an umbrella term. It describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. There are many different types of dementia, although some are far more common than others. They are often named according to the condition that has caused dementia. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease.





Alzheimer’s disease


This is the most common cause of dementia. During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to brain cells' death. Alzheimer’s symptoms vary. The stages below provide a general idea of how abilities change during the course of the disease.


Stage 1: No impairment - no signs of impairment


Stage 2: Very mild decline – the person may feel like they are forgetting things but no one around them or their doctors find any signs of impairment.


Stage 3: Mild decline -Noticeable problems coming up with the right word or name

Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people. Having noticeably greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings Forgetting material that one has just read. Losing or misplacing a valuable object. Increasing trouble with planning or organizing.


Stage 4: Moderate decline – Forgetfulness of recent events, impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s. Greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills, or managing finances. Forgetfulness about one’s own personal history. Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations.


Stage 5: Moderately severe decline – Gaps in memory and thinking are noticeable, and individuals begin to need help with day-to-day activities. At this stage, those with Alzheimer’s may:


Be unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated.


Become confused about where they are or what day it is.

Have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic; such as counting backward from 40 by subtracting 4s or from 20 by 2s.


Need help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion.

Still, remember significant details about themselves and their family.

Still require no assistance with eating or using the toilet.


Stage 6: Severe decline – Memory continues to worsen; personality changes may occur, and individuals need extensive help with daily activities. At this stage, individuals may:

Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings,

Remember their own name but have difficulty with their personal history.

Distinguish familiar and unfamiliar faces but have trouble remembering the name of a spouse or caregiver.





Need help dressing properly and may, without supervision, make mistakes such as putting pajamas over daytime clothes or shoes on the wrong feet.


Experience major changes in sleep patterns — sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night.


Need help handling details of toileting (for example, flushing the toilet, wiping, or disposing of tissue properly) Have increasingly frequent trouble controlling their bladder or bowels.


Experience some major personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions (such as believing that their caregiver is an impostor) or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding. Tend to wander or become lost.

Stage 7: Very severe decline – In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation, and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases.


At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, sit without support, and hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.


Remember:

It isn't easy to place a person with Alzheimer’s in a specific stage as stages may overlap.

Note: Information taken from the Alzheimer’s Association Website – Many different scales describe Alzheimer’s Disease; this is one I often refer to.


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