Dementia is a syndrome that is associated with the decreased ability of brain function such as the reduce memory, decrease the ability to think, understand and consider something, understand language, and the decrease of mental intelligence. This syndrome generally affects elderly people over 65 years. Dementia cannot be cured, but early treatment can help relieve and slow the development of the symptoms.
People with this syndrome will experience various symptoms such as depression, mood swings, difficulty socializing until hallucinating. The patients are unable to live independently and need the support of others. However, not everyone who experiences memory loss or decreased brain function can be associated with this syndrome.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain nerve cells in certain parts. It is reducing the ability to communicate with other body nerves and resulting in the appearance of symptoms in accordance with the area of the brain that was damaged. There are various conditions in this syndrome such as:
Progressive dementia is a condition caused by damage to certain brain nerve cells and can worsen over time. This condition generally cannot be completely restored. Some types of this syndrome include:
- Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common cause
- Vascular dementia. This brain blood vessel disorder is the second highest cause
- Lewy body dementia. It is the clotting of abnormal proteins in the brain, which can also be found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Frontotemporal dementia. A group of diseases that characterized by frontal and temporal brain cell degeneration
- Mixed dementia. Generally, it is experienced by elderly people over 80 years without a clear cause
According to its nature, the risk factors that can increase the risk of this syndrome are divided into two, namely factors that are out of control and factors that can be controlled. Risk factors that are out of control and irreversible include age, family health history, and health problems such as mild cognitive impairment and Down syndrome.
While the risk factors that can be controlled or avoided such as smoking and consuming alcohol, depression, sleep apnea, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.
People with this condition generally experience symptoms according to the cause of cognitive and psychological changes as the main symptom. The symptoms that are generally felt in terms of cognitive include:
- Memory loss
- Communication difficulties
- Difficulty in speaking
- Difficult to solve problems or plan something
- Concentration decreases
- Difficult to assess the situation and make decisions
- Difficult to coordinate body movements
- Feeling confused
While the symptoms in terms of psychological include:
- Behavioral and emotional changes
- Feeling scared (paranoid)
In severe conditions, the patients can experience advanced symptoms such as paralysis on one side of the body, unable to withstand urination, decreased appetite, to difficulty swallowing.
Not all cases of this syndrome can be cured. The treatment can be done to relieve symptoms and avoid complications. The treatment includes the administration of drugs, therapy, for surgery.
Some types of drugs commonly used to treat the symptoms are:
- Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It is to relieve symptoms of mild Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy bodies, and hallucinations
- Memantine. It is to slow down chemical reactions in the brain
- Antipsychotics. It is to relieve an aggressive patient’s behavior or experience severe agitation
- Antidepressants. It is to relieve symptoms of depression that commonly occur
Some psychological therapies are done to relieve symptoms such as:
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- Cognitive stimulation and reality orientation therapy to stimulate memory, problem-solving abilities, language skills, relieve mind disorientation, and to increase patient confidence
- Behavioral therapy to suppress uncontrolled behavior that occurs due to depression or hallucinations
- Occupational therapy to teach sufferers how to conduct daily activities safely and adapt to their conditions, while also teaching how to control emotions
- Validation therapy by showing empathy and understanding the condition of the patient so as not to experience depression
Besides the therapies above, there are also a number of supportive therapies that can be done at home such as music therapy, aromatherapy, massage, playing with pets, to doing art activities.
In cases of dementia that is caused by a brain tumor, brain injury or hydrocephalus, then surgery can be recommended. If there is no permanent damage to the brain, surgery can help restore symptoms.