Dementia Symptoms and Treatment
Dementia is a problem common in elderly people, and as our population ages, it will become a major social and economic problem in the U.S.. Patients with dementia require constant care and attention, and as the condition is normally incurable, it will become a significant financial problem to the patients, their family and government.
Dementia is a generalized deterioration in intellect, leading to confusion, irrational behavior, inappropriate reactions, poor or jumbled speech patterns, hallucinations (both visual and auditory), and loss of short term memory. The symptoms are often worse at night. Some patients may become uninhibited in both their language and habits, and may act in a manner that is quite socially unacceptable. It is a progressive condition, with a slow and gradual onset, and a continued steady deterioration over many years. It is rarely reversible, even in younger patients, unless a specific underlying disease (e.g. an underactive thyroid gland) can be found and treated. Depressed patients may appear demented, but recover remarkably when their depression is treated. Dementia in the elderly usually has no specific cause, but may be worsened by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and alcohol or drug abuse. Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia.
There are no specific blood tests that can diagnose the condition, but in advanced stages, a CT scan of the brain will show a shrinking of the brain cortex and opening up of the natural fissures in the brain.
Treatment is basically custodial. The patient should be kept in a pleasant, safe, non-threatening environment with adequate medical, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and general support services. Medications may be given to control irrational behavior, hallucinations and violent tempers, but do not improve the overall condition of the patient. Patients gradually deteriorate to a vegetative state, and die from diseases such as pneumonia, caused by being constantly in bed.
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