According to the World Health Organization, approximately 55 million people worldwide are affected by dementia and this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050. Dementia is not a specific disease; rather, it is an umbrella term used to describe a decline in mental abilities that impacts everyday life: dementia is a reduced ability to remember, think or make decisions. The most common symptom of dementia is memory loss.
Dementia is not part of the normal aging process. It is often caused by a disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. The dementia caused by these diseases will gradually worsen over time.
About 5.7 million people in the United States currently live with some form of dementia. Some of the early signs of dementia include:
- Difficulty with speech, non-verbal communication, concentration, reasoning or remembering
- Struggling with short-term memory, like forgetting where they left an object
- Not remembering why they entered a particular room
- Forgetting to go on appointments, take medications, or keep up with other commitments
- Struggling to communicate thoughts
- Experience mood swings such as depression
- Losing interest in favorite activities or hobbies
Anyone who believes they are undergoing dementia should see a doctor. Dementia can sometimes be caused by a treatable disorder, and addressing the underlying disorder can make the dementia regress. Such conditions include dementias caused by substance toxicity, thyroid disease, drug side effects, and infections.
The early stages of irreversible dementia require a degree of acceptance; accept the things you (or a loved one) cannot do and accept a helping hand when you need it. However, early-stage dementia is not a death sentence – people in the early stages of irreversible dementia can take action to slow the course of the disease. Mental activities such as puzzles can slow cognitive decline. Physical health also aids cognitive function, and cognitive decline can be delayed by aerobic activity, limiting alcohol and reducing calorie intake. Social interaction and involvement also help slow the progression of dementia. The right caregiver can provide support as needs change to ensure safety and comfort.
This content is part of a partnership between Source of the Spring and Seniors Helping Seniors® home care services to promote healthy wellbeing and aging throughout the local community. Seniors Helping Seniors® home care provides services to support seniors so they can maintain their independence and stay in their homes. For more information, visit shsbethesda.com. Photo: © Robert Kneschke – stock.adobe.com