What is Dementia?
Dementia is a descriptive term referring to the loss of memory and other cognitive functions, significant deterioration in the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL), and often, changes in social behavior due to changes in the brain caused by disease or trauma. The changes may occur gradually or quickly and may affect memory, language, perception, praxis (skills), calculations, conceptual or language knowledge, executive or decision-making functions, personality, and emotional awareness or expression. Unlike delirium, in which the mental impairment is temporary, the impairment with dementia can be irreversible or reversible if the underlying cause is treated. In the irreversible cases of dementia, such as with Alzheimer’s disease, the impairment is usually progressive, although it may vary at times.
Some common symptoms of dementia may include:
• Disorientation to date or time of day
• Repeatedly asking the same questions
• Inability to follow directions
• Becoming lost or disoriented in familiar places
• Lack of recognition or confusion about familiar people
• Difficulty with routine tasks such as paying the bills
• Personality changes
• Neglect of personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition
• Difficulty with coordination or balance
There are different subtypes of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementias, medical conditions, substance abuse-related, and infection-related.
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