Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability when it is severe enough that it interferes with daily life.
Is senility the same thing?
No, senility is a popular incorrect term that comes from a widespread belief that mental decline is a part of normal aging.
Dementia occurs when there are multiple cognitive changes that include memory loss. Dementia may be caused by a medical condition, persistent substance abuse, or a combination of factors. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
Other conditions associated with dementia include stroke, brain tumor, nutritional deficiencies, traumatic brain injury, infection, endocrine disorders, cerebrovascular diseases, seizures, and aging.
Symptoms of dementia include memory loss and any of the following:
Forgetting names or words
Difficulty combining muscle movements
Losing the ability to recognize people, sounds, shapes, or smells
Showing poor judgment
Difficulty solving problems
Inability to control responses
Difficulty with organization
Forgetfulness is often one of the first symptoms of dementia. The process of dementia can go through several stages including mild, moderate, and severe.
During the earliest phases of dementia, the following symptoms may occur such as Depression, forgetfulness, misplacing items, forgetting names (people, objects, places), personality changes, loss of social skills, blaming others for “stealing” items, repeating of stories or statements, more difficulty handling money.
When dementia progresses further, the following symptoms may occur: Changes in sleeping patterns, forgetting current events, confused regarding time and place, forgets names of family or friends, forgets pots on the stove, behave inappropriately, see or hear things that aren’t there, more repetitive, and lack personal hygiene.
During the later stages of dementia, the following symptoms may occur: Inability to recall what happened minutes ago, no recognition of family or friends, extra hygiene help (eating, washing, bathing), feeling disturbed at night, looking for a deceased relative, difficulty walking, aggressive, and have uncontrolled movements.
What are the causes?
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. When damage occurs to these cells, it interferes with the ability of these cells to communicate with each other.
However, there are conditions that can cause dementia that is potentially reversible after being treated. Some of these conditions include:
Medication side effects
Excessive use of alcohol
The fact that these factors can inhibit a persons’ memory is why having a full medical evaluation to rule out any of these contributing issues is very important.
The Importance of Early Evaluation
Getting evaluated for dementia is the first step. Participating in a neuropsychological evaluation can confirm or refute a dementia diagnosis. Neuropsychological testing can also provide information regarding the strengths and weakness of the individual’s brain functioning.
It is important to remember that there is no single test to determine if someone has dementia. A full evaluation involves performing a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment along with doing a full physical examination.
Once all the data is analyzed, treatment providers can then better understand the individual’s condition and develop treatment plans to address his/her specific needs.
The offices of Ginny Estupinian Ph.D.
Dr. Estupinian has extensive experience working in geriatrics and performing neuropsychological assessments as part of the integrated medical team at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Now, in private practice, Dr. Estupinian continues to offer her expertise in this area.
You are invited to contact our office and discuss your situation. All conversations are confidential.
Please call and book your consultation today.