Dementia is an overarching term referring to a variety of brain diseases that impact cognitive abilities and cause challenges in understanding and memory retention. As individuals age, their cognitive abilities may naturally decline, but for those with dementia, these effects are accelerated, significantly impacting daily functioning.
Symptoms and Causes of Dementia
Dementia can manifest as a persistent brain fog, making simple decisions, such as choosing appropriate clothing for the weather or preparing for an event, increasingly difficult. As dementia progresses, it may also alter an individual’s personality, leading to increased aggression, defensiveness, or confusion.
Dementia is caused by various brain diseases, which complicates treatment. Identifying the specific cause is essential for determining an effective course of action. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but other forms include Lewy body, vascular, mixed dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. These different types of dementia are characterized by their root causes, which dictate the symptoms and progression of the disease.
Complications of Dementia
Dementia complications can significantly affect an individual’s ability to process information, respond to situations and adapt to new circumstances. While these complications vary from person to person, some common issues include difficulties in learning new tasks, frequent repetition, misplacing objects and experiencing confusion or disorientation. Individuals with advanced dementia may even become lost within their own homes or forget the purpose of moving from one room to another.
As dementia progresses, judgment, reasoning and coping abilities gradually deteriorate. This decline can lead to frustration, aggression, irritability, anxiety, depression and restlessness that can be challenging to alleviate.
Communication becomes increasingly difficult as words fade from memory and become jumbled in the mind. This struggle often causes dementia sufferers to withdraw from social interactions, which can exacerbate their symptoms.
The ability to focus and problem-solve declines as well, making activities that require a specific sequence of tasks nearly impossible to complete.
Diagnosing Dementia: Understanding Cognitive Challenges
People diagnosed with dementia face more than just forgetfulness; they experience cognitive issues to such an extent that their ability to function in everyday life becomes compromised. These individuals will eventually lose their independence, as they become unable to perform basic tasks and manage responsibilities.
Diagnosing dementia isn’t as simple as it sounds. While some symptoms can be clear and extreme, a definitive diagnosis can’t be made without examining the patient’s brain tissue through a biopsy or after death via an autopsy. Since these diagnostic strategies aren’t always practical, doctors assess patients’ cognitive abilities by asking a series of questions related to memory, decision-making, language, recognizing objects and the ability to follow basic directions toward completing simple tasks. Brain scans, such as CT scans and MRIs, can also be used to reveal changes in the brain’s structure, helping to identify dementia and conditions like stroke, which can cause dementia.
The Sprint Study and its Implications for Dementia Care
The results of the large-scale cardiovascular Sprint Study (2019) suggest that people over the age of 50 receiving aggressive treatment for hypertension are less likely to develop dementia than those receiving standard treatment for high blood pressure. The study revealed a link between a blood pressure reduction to 120 or below and a significant decrease in the risk of developing cardiovascular events and cognitive impairments, including dementia.
The Sprint Study continued to follow subjects for over three years, with more than 8,000 receiving cognitive assessments. The results indicated that patients in the group receiving intensive hypertension treatment, which lowered blood pressure to 120, developed fewer incidences of dementia compared to the group receiving standard treatment.
Long-Term Effects and the Sprint Study: Implications for Dementia Care
Studies like the Sprint Study often require a lengthy process before results become concrete enough to justify changes in standard medical practice and treatment regimens. In the case of dementia, a class of brain disease known to develop slowly over many years, it’s challenging to fully grasp the implications of such a study over a short period of time. Lead researchers suggest that observing subjects over longer periods would yield more applicable and revealing results. The Alzheimer’s Association agreed, funding the study for an additional two years.
Study Limitations and Dementia Home Care
The Sprint Study faced some limitations, including a relatively short observation period of three years and unclear aspects regarding participants with additional conditions such as diabetes. Furthermore, since hypertension often causes other health complications, the study’s findings regarding participants with more disorders than just hypertension and their incidences of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) seem somewhat inconclusive.
Prevention and Management of Alzheimer's Disease
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease or medications that can stop or reverse the brain’s structural changes, some medications can help alleviate symptoms and slow down disease progression. Rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil are effective in slowing memory loss.
For vascular dementia, stroke prevention is crucial. Lowering blood pressure, as seen in the Sprint Study’s extreme group, can further decrease the likelihood of developing MCI and strokes later in life.
Studies suggest that increased social interaction can slow down dementia progression, as it keeps areas of the brain stimulated and engaged. Social interactions can also release powerful hormones known to alleviate dementia-related symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
Personalized Dementia Assisted Living and Home Healthcare Services
A home health aides and other home care services can help client not only by assisting with tasks that may become difficult, but also by providing social stimulation throughout the day. Boca Home Care Services matches screened, experienced, and certified caregivers to clients based on their specific needs and preferences. Caregivers cater to each client’s unique requirements, ensuring seniors can live safely and independently in their homes while receiving dementia care or Alzheimer’s care.
If you or a loved one are beginning to experience symptoms of dementia, Boca Home Care Services is here to help. We accept all long-term care insurance policies and, for clients who don’t have long-term care insurance, will work with families to develop an appropriate and affordable care plan. Contact us to learn more about our home aide services and how we can help you or your loved one living with dementia by providing personalized, in-home, assisted living support.