The term “dementia” describes a condition of persistent mental deterioration. It involves memory, problem-solving, learning, and other mental functions. The mental problems are severe enough to interfere with daily living activities. Dementia, unlike delirium, usually comes on slowly over time and is relatively stable with little day-to-day fluctuation.
The general symptoms of dementia include:
- Short-term memory loss. (More than just an occasional forgetting of appointments, names, or where you put things.)
- Inability to complete moderately complex tasks (such as making soup from a packaged mix).
- Impaired judgment
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Paranoid, inappropriate, or bizarre behavior
The mental status exam can also to identify possible dementia problems. If mental impairment has come on suddenly, the problem may be delirium, not dementia.
There are over 100 separate health conditions that can cause or mimic dementia. Many are reversible with treatment. For others, no completely effective treatment is currently available.
Depression can often cause the symptoms of dementia. Think first of depression when you notice memory loss, confusion, or impaired judgment. Medical treatment is usually effective.
Other common causes of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia or multi-infarct dementia, caused by many small strokes in the brain
- Chronic infections
- Reactions to medications
- Poor nutrition or poor hydration (too little water)
- Alcohol dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Deficiency in vitamin B1 (thiamine) or vitamin B12
The home management guidelines for dementia presented below can be helpful no matter what the cause of the problem.
- Simplify the daily routine with regular times for meals, baths, and a limited number of activities.
- Create a safe but interesting living environment.
o Disconnect an electric stove when not in use.
o Provide an ID bracelet.
o Keep chemicals locked away.
o Put bells on doors.
- Use written notes or instructions. Label objects.
- Provide regular stimulation of senses: touching, singing, exercising, hugging.
- Review with a physician or pharmacist all medications and dosages.
- Provide good nutrition and plenty of fluids.
- Use a non-confronting approach to behavior problems. Distraction often works best.
- Consider home treatment for depression.
When to call a health professional
- If the symptoms of dementia are interfering with the person’s ability to carry on normal activities.
- If a person with diagnosed dementia becomes uncontrollably hostile or agitated.
- For a referral to a specialist in geriatrics. These professionals have special training to identify causes of dementia. Some causes of dementia are reversible and many symptoms can be effectively managed.
Filed Under: Home Remedies
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