Aging can diminish the ability of the brain to store things, making it harder to recall information. It can be common to forget a name or where you placed your keys, but the signs of dementia shouldn't be ignored.
Common warning signs that a person may be developing dementia include:
- forgetting things much more often
- forgetting how to perform basic skills
- trouble learning new things
- repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation
- trouble making choices or handling money
- not being able to keep track of what happens each day
Complications of dementia can be serious and can include life-threatening conditions, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, pressure ulcers, malnutrition and blood clots.
Types of dementia
Knowing the types of dementia may help you recognize when memory loss is normal and when it isn't. The main types of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s Disease – In Alzheimer's disease, two structures (plaques and tangles) are prime suspects in the search for what damages and kills nerve cells at an abnormal rate. At first, a person with Alzheimer's disease will remember even small details of his or her distant past but not be able to remember recent events or conversations. Over time, the disease affects all parts of the memory.
- Lewy Body Dementia – Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of protein inside nerve cells that disrupt the brain's normal function. Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease with dementia are both associated with Lewy bodies. A person with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations. In both types of dementia, a person may experience parkinsonism (resting tremor, stiff and slow movements and shuffling walk).
- Vascular Dementia - Vascular dementia is common in people who have diabetes or a history of heart attacks or strokes. Several mini-strokes can be the underlying cause of memory loss.
- Mixed Dementia – Mixed dementia is a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Treatment for dementia
Although dementia is usually progressive, there are options for treatment and management.
Geriatric specialists with The Christ Hospital help patients with memory loss by providing:
- comprehensive reviews of all medical conditions and recommendations for patients and caregivers
- medication reviews to determine if current medicines are causing memory problems, confusion or other side effects
- evaluations of memory and overall brain function
- psychosocial testing to see if mental illness may be playing a role in the memory problem
- driving evaluations to decide if it is safe for patients to drive
- home safety evaluations
- referrals for medical or therapeutic services that may allow patients to remain at home
Learn more about memory loss services at The Christ Hospital.