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What is Dementia?

Many of us either have a loved one who has suffered from dementia or we know someone who does. The diagnosis of dementia is an incredibly difficult one to receive for all members of the family. While there is still a lot about dementia that the medical community hasn’t been able to fully explain, research is being done every day to better understand the causes of dementia and find ways to treat it.

What is dementia?

While the term is used often, dementia isn’t a specific disease itself. It’s an umbrella term used to describe a host of cognitive impairment symptoms. Dementia occurs when there is damage to the cells in the brain, impairing the communication from cell to cell. It usually is the result of brain disease, stroke, or injury, although it can be caused by other factors like brain tumors or drug misuse. The impact of this damage leads to memory loss, difficulty carrying out day to day tasks, personality disruptions, and other symptoms.

Types of dementia

There are several forms of dementia, but a few of the most common are described below.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of the brain, and perhaps the most well known form of dementia. It’s important to note that while Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, not all dementia sufferers have Alzheimer’s. With that said, Alzheimer’s does make up 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, making it the most common form by far. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, and treatments to slow or halt the progression of the disease are yet to be successful.

Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia, making up around 10 percent of cases. Vascular dementia occurs when there is a lack of blood flow in the brain, like after a stroke, and brain cells are damaged or killed.

Parkinson’s Disease can also include dementia—upwards of 50 to 80 percent of Parkinson's patients are estimated to be affected. Parkinson’s-related dementia differs from Alzheimer’s in that it usually takes years to develop symptoms after first being diagnosed. Parkinson's disease starts in the area of the brain that affects motor movement, but can and often does move to parts of the brain that cause memory loss.

Lewy Body Dementia occurs when there are deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies. These deposits are also thought to be the cause of memory loss in Parkinson’s patients The two diseases are now thought to be linked, but more research is being performed to confirm this idea.

To learn more about all the types of dementia, read more from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Early symptoms

Catching and diagnosing dementia early can help keep your loved ones out of potentially dangerous situations, so it’s important to keep an eye on their health. Also, the progression of some forms of dementia can also be slowed with early intervention.

If you notice personality changes in your loved ones, if they start having difficulty keeping up with their schedule, or begin to have trouble caring for themselves in the ways they have before, it’s never a bad idea to talk with a doctor. Sometimes symptoms of other medical issues, like medication side effects or vitamin deficiency, can masquerade as dementia as well.

However, not all memory loss is a symptom of a larger problem—some memory loss occurs with normal aging. For example, forgetting an appointment but then remembering about it later in the day is a normal lapse in memory. But if a loved one can’t remember any events and must rely on a family member or other methods to constantly remind them, it might be a sign of a larger problem.

For more details about early symptoms, read the full list from The Alzheimer’s Association.

Care at The Chateau

The Chateau offers excellent, compassionate, and personalized care for our residents with dementia. Our staff is skilled and experienced in caring for our residents with memory problems, and we have round-the-clock care, so you can rest easy knowing your loved one is in good hands.

For more information about care at The Chateau, contact our Admissions Coordinator at (573) 651-8144.

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