If you or someone you know has a family member
with dementia, then you know what a difficult,
debilitating disorder it is. Dementia is a
disorder of the nervous system that affects
the ability to reason, speak, remember, and
move. In some cases, this condition grows
worse over time and cannot be cured. Other
types can be treated and reversed.
What are the causes of dementia?
The most common causes of dementia are
diseases such as the following:
(1) Alzheimer disease - A loss of nerve cells
in the brain affects memory and other mental
functions. This disease is progressive, and
the exact cause is unknown.
(2) Parkinson disease - This disorder affects
physical movement, and symptoms include
tremors, speech impairment, and a shuffling
gait. In later stages, some people develop
(3) Lewy body dementia - This form of dementia
occurs when abnormal round structures, called
Lewy bodies, develop in the cells of the
midbrain. This condition shares
characteristics of both Alzheimer's and
(4) Vascular dementia - This form of dementia
occurs when arteries to the brain become
narrow or blocked. This type often occurs
after a stroke. The symptoms may appear
abruptly or progress slowly over time.
Vascular dementia may be prevented by treating
the underlying diseases, such as high blood
(5) Huntington disease - This hereditary
disorder begins with mild personality changes,
but in later stages, it can develop into
dementia. Other conditions can cause dementia
or dementia-like symptoms, including severe
nutritional deficiencies, emotional problems,
and infections of the brain such as
meningitis, reactions to some medications, and
metabolic abnormalities such as decreased
thyroid function or hypoglycemia, a lack of
sufficient sugar in the bloodstream. Some are
reversible with treatment.
Can you prevent dementia?
You can prevent some forms of dementia, such
as dementia due to a vitamin B-1 deficiency,
by ensuring that you eat a nutritious,
balanced diet. You may also be able to prevent
vascular dementia by taking good care of your
heart with the help of your physician. And if
you are diabetic, controlling your diabetes is
critical. In many cases, though, there is no
sure-fire way to prevent dementia.
A recent study at the Mayo clinic indicates
that people who do not have psychiatric
problems but who score very high on a
personality test's pessimism scale have a 30
percent increased risk of developing dementia
several decades later. The same holds true for
those people who score very high on the
depression scale of personality test. For
people who score high in both anxiety and
pessimism, the risk of developing dementia
later in life rises to 40 percent or more.
Therefore, developing a positive attitude and
getting help if you suffer from depression may
Doctors also recommend keeping your mind sharp
by reading, writing stories, playing games, or
starting a new hobby. Staying connected with
friends and family also helps stimulate your
memory and mental processes.
How to cope with dementia?
If you are providing care for someone with
dementia, it is important to honour and
recognize your own feelings of frustration and
helplessness. However, when you feel
frustrated, it is also important that you
learn to express that feeling appropriately
and ask for help when you need it. You must
also take care of yourself and make time for
yourself. Seek outside support to help you
through the process.
Even if you are not the primary caregiver for
someone with dementia, trying to communicate
with them can still be a frustrating
experience. Patients with dementia understand
what you say in the context of their own
world. Trying to convince them that their
world is incorrect or "not real" can make
matters worse. Instead, it helps to remain
calm and be sensitive to what they perceive to