More Information About Dementia:
Dementia is a deterioration of intellectual function and other cognitive skills, leading to a decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living. Dementia is progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Particularly affected areas may be memory, attention, language and problem solving, although particularly in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time, place or person.
Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by gradual death of brain cells. The loss of cognitive abilities that occurs with dementia leads to impairments in memory, reasoning, planning, and personality. While the overwhelming number of people with dementia are elderly, it is not an inevitable part of aging. Instead, dementia is caused by specific brain diseases. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause, followed by vascular or multi-infarct dementia.
There are many causes of dementia, but the three most common are Alzheimer's disease, multi-infarct or vascular disease, and Lewy body disease. Alzheimer's accounts for about 50 percent of all dementia cases and is the result of nerve cell changes and a loss of brain cells. Approximately 11 percent of people older than 65 have Alzheimer's disease. Unlike Alzheimer's, multi-infarct dementia is caused by a series of small strokes. Lewy body dementia has symptoms of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Parkinson's is caused by a reduction of the chemical dopamine, a substance that is essential to transmit brain signals. Symptoms of Parkinson's include tremor, stiffness and slowed movement. Parkinson's is a degenerative disease, and it is treatable but not curable.
Dementia is one of the most serious disorders affecting the elderly. The prevalence of dementia increases rapidly with age. The prevalence of dementia has been difficult to determine, partly because of differences in definition among different studies, and partly because there is some normal decline in functional ability with age. Dementia is most common in elderly people; it used to be called senility and was considered a normal part of aging. Dementia affects 5-8% of all people between ages 65 and 74, and up to 20% of those between 75 and 84. Estimates for dementia in those 85 and over range from 30-47%. Between two and four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease; that number is expected to grow to as many as 14 million by the middle of the 21st century as the population as a whole ages.
Dementia is a very serious condition that results in significant financial and human costs. When someone has dementia, brain cells are damaged and die faster than they would normally. Losing brain cells means that the brain does not work as well as it should, and gradually people lose the ability to do things. Often, memory is affected first and people forget important facts such as the name of their husband or wife. Later, as the illness progresses, people get confused about things like where they are, what day it is or who other people are. People with dementia may become listless and lose interest in activities that have previously been important to them.