By Anushka Goswami, Psychologist
Dementia is a disorder which leads to chronic or progressive deterioration in the cognitive abilities of an individual. It not only affects memory but also the ability to process information and understand our own thought processes. These declines are way beyond that is generally seen due to biological aging. It affects cognitive functions like memory, thinking, understanding, comprehension, learning capability, calculation, orientation, language, and even judgment. This impairment ranges from mild to severe and due to the progressive nature of the disorder, symptoms start and then slowly over time become more and more severe. This also includes changes in mood, emotional regulation, behavior, and motivation of the individual suffering from Dementia.
Dementia is a very serious condition which can not only affect the individual but also cause immense stress to the caregiver. Dementia is now the seventh leading cause of death among various other disorders and causes disability and major dependency of the individual who is suffering from Dementia upon the caregivers such as family members. It can result from a various number of other disorders or diseases that affect the brain neurologically such as Alzheimer’s disease or cerebral stroke. It had various physical, psychological, interpersonal, social, and economic impacts. These impacts are faced by not only the people who are suffering from it but also their family members and society at large. As we are discussing Dementia today, it is really important to actually understand this disorder because a lack of awareness regarding the same can lead to stigmatization which can often lead to barriers in the diagnosis and care of the patient.
Dementia can have different effects on different people depending on their underlying neurobiology. The symptoms of Dementia are so subtle in the beginning that they are often overlooked until more severe symptoms start to appear. The symptoms of Dementia are divided into three stages for better understanding.
Early Stage: The early stage of dementia, as already told before, is often overlooked because the onset is gradual. The early-stage symptoms include:
- Increasing forgetfulness
- Losing track of time
- Getting lost in familiar places
Middle Stage: Dementia slowly progresses to the next stage which is called the middle stage. The signs of this stage are:
- Forgetting recent events or names of known people
- Getting confused regarding daily life things at home
- Increased difficulty with communication
- Need for a helping hand in personal care
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, wandering chances, and repeated questioning
Late Stage: The late stage of Dementia is the final and the most severe stage wherein the disorder has already progressed to a dangerous level and the symptoms become very clear. The signs of this stage are:
- Complete dependence on family members
- Inactivity and serious disturbances in memory
- Being unaware and getting confused regarding time and place
- Having difficulty recognizing known relatives or family members and friends
- Difficulty in walking
- Having behavioral changes that may increase aggression, anger, and irritability
Types/Forms of Dementia
Dementia can be of various different types, wherein Alzheimer’s disease is the most common one. Other types are Vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal production of a protein that develops inside nerve cells), and frontotemporal dementia (degeneration of the nerves in the frontal lobe of the brain). It can also develop after physical health factors such as a cerebral stroke, serious infections such as HIV, excessive and harmful use of alcohol, repeated injuries to the brain, or any vitamin or nutritional deficiencies.