Written By Kawha Yang
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.
The symptoms of Dementia in younger people may have different needs and support than those of older generations (older than 65 years of age). In 2015, an estimated 700,000 people of age 65 or older died with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.
Dementia is a disease that damages nerve cells in the brain. It may affect people differently, depending on which areas of the brain are affected. Some forms of Dementia caused by a reaction to medication or an infection are reversible with treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
If a loved one experiences trouble with memory, one might immediately presume that they have Dementia. However, a person needs to have at least two types of the following impairments to be classified as having Dementia:
Although, trouble with memory can be recognized as an early sign of the disease. Changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. The following are common symptoms associated with Dementia diagnosis:
- Mood Swings
- Listlessness or apathy
- Failing sense of direction and spatial reasoning
- Struggle with adaptation to change
Types of Dementia
Alcohol-related Dementia is often called Korsakoff’s syndrome. It can occur in people who have regularly consumed a large amounts of alcohol. Korsakoff’s syndrome is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia in younger generations. People with Down’s syndrome and other learning disabilities can develop Dementia at an early age.
Vascular Dementia develops when there are problems with blood supply to the brain. This type effects 20 percent of younger people with Dementia, it has become the second most common form of Dementia among younger people.
A lack of awareness can can happen to the affected individuals. Getting an accurate diagnosis of Dementia can take a very long time for younger people in particular.
Medical professionals often misdiagnose younger people as being depressed, experiencing relationship difficulties, suffering from the effects of stress or, for women, it may be put down to the onset of the menopause.
Many affected individuals describe their first symptom as that they didn’t seem quite themselves or they made mistakes at work that didn’t fit their usual performance. You may want to keep a symptom diary of when you first suspect that something might be wrong.
It is difficult often to get adequate support for younger people with dementia. The needs of younger people with Dementia are different from than those affected in older generations. Younger people have complex needs such as maintaining their day-to-day skills, friendships, hobbies, and interests. Younger people with Dementia are more likely to:
- Be in work at time of diagnosis
- Have a partner who still works
- Have dependent children
- Have parents they need to care for
- Are more physically fit and active
Some cases are caused by medical conditions that can be treated, and treatment can restore some or all mental function. Treating the various causes can help with the symptoms/diagnosis of Dementia:
- Vitamins for deficiency of vitamin B12
- Thyroid hormones for hypothyroidism
- Have surgery to remove brain tumor or to reduce pressure on the brain
- Stop or change medications that are causing memory loss or confusion
- Treat infections (e.g. encephalitis)
- Treat depression
If you intend to go to the doctor or hospital for treatment, these ways may help slow or minimize the development of symptoms.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors – Medications including donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne) work by boosting levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment.
- Memantine – (Namenda) works by regulating glutamate activities. Glutamate is another chemical messenger involved in brain functions, such as learning and memory.
Non-drug approaches include therapies such as:
- Modifying the environment – Reducing clutter and distracting noise can make it easier for someone with dementia to focus and function.
- Modifying tasks – Break tasks into easier steps and focus on success, not failure. Structure and routine during the day will also help reduce confusion in people with dementia.
Certain risk factors like age or genetic susceptibility cannot be changed or controlled. Although, other factors exist that mat increase the probability of developing Dementia. These factors include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Cardiovascular factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, hypertension, or obesity
- Mental health issues like depression
- High estrogen (female hormone) levels in women
- Head trauma
- High homocysteine levels
How to Help
There are lots of ways you can support charity organizations that raise money to help young individuals with Dementia. Charities like YoungDementia UK and Young Dementia from the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C.