Thursday, July 12, 2012

Understanding and Diagnosing Dementia

Understanding and Diagnosing Dementia

As more adult children take on the role of caretaker for their aging parents, understanding dementia and its effects on the lives of those who suffer from it is becoming increasingly important.

What is Dementia?
Dementia is a loss of brain function that can occur either on its own or as a result of another disease. Although dementia can happen to anyone, there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk for it, including age and family history. Although family history is a risk factor, there are many people who have had a family member with dementia and never been affected.

Although no one can control their age or family history, there are some risk factors that are shown to lead to an increased risk of dementia that can be controlled, including high cholesterol, high or low levels of blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions.

Symptoms of Dementia
Although most people think of dementia as a disease within itself, it is actually a group of symptoms that affect a person’s intellectual ability and behavior. Memory loss is the symptom most commonly associated with dementia, but there are other physical and behavioral symptoms that may point to it, as well, including:
·         Personality changes
·         Odd or inappropriate behavior
·         Difficulty with motor skills and coordination
·         Difficulty expressing oneself verbally
·         Inability to learn or retain information
·         Paranoia or hallucinations

It is important to remember and recognize these additional symptoms, as memory loss alone does not necessarily constitute dementia. If you recognize two or more of these symptoms in an aging parent or loved one, you can schedule a visit with a doctor who can help determine if it is dementia and, if so, what form.

Treatment Options
Treatment of dementia will not get rid of the condition, but it can help to slow down or minimize the development of associated symptoms.

Depending on what form of dementia is being presented, a doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication. In addition, a person with dementia may be prescribed medications that help to treat its underlying symptoms.

Caring for a parent or senior who is suffering from dementia can be an emotionally and physically draining task. Look for local support groups, speak with a family counselor or keep a journal about your experiences as ways to de-stress and cope with dementia.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of dementia is an important part of helping to recognize and cope with the disease, but dementia is still a difficult diagnosis. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post from my colleague, who will further discuss the emotional effects of being a patient who has been diagnosed with dementia.

David Thomas, D.O. practices neurology and neuroscience psychology at Riddle Hospital. He completed his neurology residency and Ph.D. at Temple University, and earned his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Thomas is board certified in neurology and serves as the Chief of Neurology at Riddle.

5 Comments:

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