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Dementia

Unlike other mental health disorders, dementia is not a mental health diagnosis that stands alone.

Rather, it is a significant set of symptoms that are often caused by a mental health disorder – symptoms that affect your loved one’s ability to function in day-to-day life. Intellectual and social abilities are affected by dementia, and without treatment, your loved one will become more and more dependent upon you and less interactive with others.

How Dementia Is Defined

Dementia is defined by problems with at least two brain functions. Memory loss is often an issue, but memory loss alone is not enough to warrant a dementia diagnosis.

Any combination of the following impairments can mean that dementia is an issue:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired language and communication skills
  • Inappropriate statements, actions or other behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Changes in personality
  • Problems with motor function
  • Difficulty remembering information or retaining new information
  • Irritability
  • Problems planning and organizing simple activities

Other Disorders Related to Dementia

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Dementia pugilistica
  • HIV-related dementia
  • Dementia that is secondary to another disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease)

Types of Dementia

Different types of dementia are classified according to how they progress, what caused them, or what part of the brain that they affect.

The most common include:

  • Progressive dementias (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia)
  • Reversible dementias (e.g., dementia caused by infections, poisoning, immune disorders, metabolic issues, nutritional deficiencies, medication reactions, hematomas, tumors, and heart and lung issues)

Risk Factors

There are some risk factors for dementia that you can change – and there are some that you can’t. For example, you can’t control your age or if your family members have been diagnosed with the disorder of if you have Down syndrome. All of these are risk factors for developing dementia.

There are, however, a number of risk factors that can be controlled by you in an effort to decrease your risk of developing the symptoms of dementia.

  • Substance abuse
  • High blood pressure
  • Untreated depression
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Treating Dementia

The good news is that many of the cognitive and social functions impaired by dementia can be treated, abated or even reversed – depending on the cause. To best help your loved one get the mental health treatment they need to address their symptoms of dementia, you can:

  • Make an appointment for them with a diagnostician, psychotherapist and physician.
  • Take note of any restriction (e.g., no eating) prior to an appointment.
  • Make a list of all the symptoms that your loved one is experiencing, including duration and time, time of day, and how long they have been an issue.
  • Make a list of all medications that your loved one is currently taking.
  • Bring all pertinent medical records and diagnoses.
  • Attend appointments with your loved one so you can help answer questions and comment if your loved one inadvertently provides information that is not correct.