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The Confusion Over Dementia

Updated on April 30, 2013
the elderly
the elderly | Source

Understanding Dementia

When we think about Dementia we may relate it to the elderly. It could be something which we believe won't happen to us or we refuse to think about. But unless you have been around sufferers of this mental disease, it can be difficult to truly see how it takes it's toll on the person living with it.


Of course there are different types of dementia and not all are on the same point of the spectrum. Not everyone behaves in the same way, maybe because of the different type, the personality of the individual or what stage it is at.

Who can get Dementia?

It is more common in older people but it can start in people from the age of 40. 1 in 5 people over 80 will have some sort of dementia, while 1 in 20 will have it over the age of 65.

It can be hard to diagnose the type of dementia as some have similar traits to one another. Some of the early warning signs can be spotted, such as regular forgetfulness and treated appropriately by professionals.

So what are the Diagnoses Symptoms of Dementia?

All types of dementia affect the brain but in different areas. This then changes the behavior of the individual in the way they think, what they can remember and in some cases visually too.

The early stages of any dementia show symptoms of confusion and generally forgetfulness. It can be anything from forgetting to turn off the oven (and forgetting it was on in the first place), to confusion of times, places and whereabouts. Struggling to remember names of people and objects is a certain sign that it is setting in.

People do live with it and can be medicated to slow down the process, but a carer in the form of a family member or trained worker will need to help the sufferer to take their medication on time, help with preparation of meals and prompting with washing and dressing. It is easy to forget if they have had a wash that morning, or what goes on first: a shirt or a vest.

Dementia really does affect different people in different ways. Aspects of their personality may alter, making relationships and communication difficult. The stages of the illness makes an impact on the sufferer's level of dependency, which will have an effect on the individual physically as well as mentally in the long term.

Although it is possible for medication to slow down the development of some types of dementia (if diagnosed early), there is no known cure.

medication | Source

How do You Develop Dementia?

Dementia can develop from infections in the nervous system, stroke, damaged cells in the brain, head injury, drug or alcohol abuse or HIV.

Some of the different forms of dementia include Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies, Vascular dementia, Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Alzheimer's Disease

A German neurologist named Alois Alzheimer first discovered the illness describing the symptoms due to damaged cells in the temporal and part of the frontal lobes of the brain. It isn't always clear how these cells become damaged, but several factors may contribute. It could be hereditary, down to head injuries, age, health and lifestyle, high blood pressure or cholesterol, or environmental factors.

The symptoms include short term memory loss, confusion, mood swings, changes in communication, forgetting day to day things and finding activities hard to carry out.

It is a progressive illness meaning symptoms worsen over time. The time can vary, but medication can help as well as mental stimulation from friends, family, crosswords, books and puzzles. Being surrounded by other people who are confused and have behavioral problems or depression will not slow down the process.

Some people still live in their own homes when they have Alzheimer's disease but they will benefit from someone to help them will basic tasks. As they worsen they will need assistance with their personal care. They may need to be reminded on how to wash and shown what to use, or fuller assistance may be required.

If the individual starts to get confused or anxious about where they are they could possibly wonder. If they get lost in their area or become forgetful in regards to road safety, they will need more professional help. Someone would need to be with them 24 hours a day or placed in a secure residential home with care workers to look after them.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Lewy Bodies is one of the most common types of progressive dementia. Not only does it affect memory and behavior, as Alzheimer's does, but it affects cognitive skills and can cause hallucination.

A patient with Lewy bodies can have similar symptoms to a patient with Parkinson's disease. They can become rigid or suffer with involuntary movement. This is because it is caused by a build up of Lewy Bodies (alpha-synuclein protein) in the part of the brain which controls motor skills and memory. Because of this aspect it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, due to the similarity to Parkinson's.

Other symptoms include depression, lack of motivation, disorganized speech, staring into space and sleep disorders.

A sufferer may have good days and bad days with hallucinations (often seeing animals which are not there), mood swings and problems with motor control. Full care would be needed with the correct medication and good communication. Help would also be given if the patient needed assistance to mobilize. Use of the correct aids will minimize risks in regards to health and safety, such as walking frames, wheelchairs, turntables or hoists.

Because of the affects Lewy Bodies have on the brain, the affect on the patient's sight can make day to day living difficult. Patterns on carpets can look like holes in the ground to the individual, and white toilets in a white bathroom are invisible. Ensuring toilet seats are colored and floors are plain will help promote some independence.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by a chronic decline in blood flow to the brain, often as a result in stroke, or a series of mini strokes called transient ischemic attacks (TIA's).

In the case of a mini stroke the symptoms may go unnoticed, but over a period of time the signs of vascular dementia become apparent. This includes confusion, memory loss and other signs of dementia.

The physical signs of Vascular dementia include:

  • loss of balance
  • incontinence
  • hallucinations
  • tremors

Mental health signs show:

  • confusion
  • memory problems
  • slowed thinking
  • loss of social skills
  • changes in personality

Behavioral signs are:

  • inappropriate behavior
  • difficulty with day to day tasks
  • speech problems
  • getting lost

Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease is a genetic disorder usually passed down due to a faulty gene. It can be passed down from either parent and is equal to both men and women. It is an illness which affects the brain and therefore has an affect on memory, mental ability and physical movement.

Although it is more common among people in their 40's and 50's it is possible to have Juvenile Huntington's disease, which develops before the age of 20, and is more severe form of Huntington's.

As with all form of dementia there is no known cure, but correct diagnoses and care can help individuals get the most out of life.

Huntington's disease was previously known as Huntington's chorea. Chorea means to have involuntary or jerky movements which is the main symptom of the condition. This can affect many areas of the body such as limbs, face or eyes.

Someone with the condition can also suffer with difficulty with speech, swallowing and walking. The constant movement from the illness (which burns energy) and inability to eat may as a result lead to weight loss.

The more emotional affects of the illness lead to depression, weight loss and change in personality. Individuals who feel low in mood with a lack of motivation can feel frustrated and possibly angry, and suffer mood swings or aggression towards others. Schizophrenia is common with those with HD, with feelings of paranoia, hallucinations or complaints of hearing or seeing things.

As the illness progresses it takes it's toll on memory, continence and mobility.


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    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Conservative Lady - how awful for a family member to go through that, and now you are taking care of her. I couldn't imagine what that must be like. I work with people with dementia, but it isn't the same as living with someone who is close to me with it.

    • Conservative Lady profile image


      5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Interesting and useful hub - my mother in law moved in with us 10 months ago due to Brain Cancer - the cancer is in remission but she now has severe Vascular Dementia. Challenging to say the least.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Immartin, working with people who suffer with Alzheimer's Disease really opens your eyes to do (as does personally knowing someone with it). There is always something new to understand about each type of the illness, but as the individual deteriorates, it's just something new to have to cope with.

    • lmmartin profile image


      6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      A great article. I work with several Alzheimer's sufferers and can attest to the obscene horror that this disease creates. It is a slow death of the personality, followed long after by a physical demise. As you stated above, I learn something new about Alzheimer's with each day and each client. Lynda

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thanks Diana. It is quite a complex subject - I even know people who work with dementia patients who still learn new things each day. When we understand, we can help them so much better.

    • Diana Mendes profile image

      Diana Mendes 

      6 years ago

      Great Hub! Thanks for the information. I have always associated dementia with the elderly people. Thanks for sharing. I've learned so much from this hub.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      It's amazing what gets researched and is found to contribute. I also heard chemicals in cleaning products have an effect on children with ASD - they can't eliminate them from their bodies properly apparently.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Very nice article:) Environmental factors, especially chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, are now being found to cause substantial neuronal damage and rewiring that has been linked to a number of "dementia" and other neuronal diseases.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Yes it is heartbreaking to see loved ones go through this type of illness. It is important to be educated though and look after those living with it in the best possible way.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      This is very informative - a lot of great information here. I know a family where /Alzheimers is very prevalent and it is very sad.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      It is very complex as there are so many causes and effects - such as physical or behavioral. Here are just a few examples, but there are more types and some surprising ways of behavior. These range from sweet cravings, repeating actions/motions (as if they are still doing the job they used to do) to sexual urges.

    • itsmonkeyboy profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      Great hub. Very informative and considering this is a subject I don't know too much about you've made it easy to read and even easier to understand.

      You've included a few things I had no idea about either, and some of the symptoms come as quite a surprise. Thank you for the helpful information.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      I have also looked after people who have alcohol induced dementia. There are so many causes and it's such an awful illness.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Dementia can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption. I have a client that I am working with right now because of this very issue, and he is in his 40's and has probably had it for some time.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you for the advice. There were so many ways I could have tackled this subject: I could have written more in depth hubs on each type of dementia, or write an outline like I did. I am aware that there is so much more to write - also the effects it has on behavior, routine and how to deal with it (as carers we must enter their world). It is endless and very interesting. I need to write more!

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 

      6 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Hi Emma

      Thanks for the useful and interesting breakdown of the different types and causes of dimentia. You might want to add another hub on precisely what happens in terms of metabolism in the brain as a result of Alzheimers. I find it interesting and somewhat easy to understand and Alheimers effects the brain in ways that other forms of dimentia do not. As I understand there are certain metabolic processes in terms of the breaking down of proteins, I think, in our brain which in Alzheimers disease, the process does not complete itself leaving a gooey like substance to coat so to speak parts of the brain like the hippocampus. Maybe you know this better than I do, but it would make an excellent hub. Don't you just love it when some one tells you what to write a hub about!

      Anywho, take care and thanks for the information



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