What is dementia?

Dementia can be defined as a decline in cognitive performance from some previous state. Some of the more common forms of dementia in the elderly include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson’s disease with dementia.

How is Alzheimer’s different from other dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is one common form of dementia in the elderly, possibly accounting for up to 60% of dementia in the elderly. As is pointed out above there are many other types of age-related dementias besides Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a number of alternative medical conditions which can promote dementia (stroke, vitamin deficiency, alcohol abuse). Alzheimer’s disease can be distinguished from other dementias based on the fact that it is a relatively slow onset and progressive disease that affects multiple aspects of cognitive performance including memory, language, and personality. Also, it is important that these changes often occur in the absence of significant impairments in regulating basic body functions and the ability to walk.

Does Alzheimer’s only cause memory impairment or are other brain functions also involved?

Memory is most affected in Alzheimer’s disease. Associated symptoms include: poor organization and planning abilities, incomprehensible speech and difficulty finding words, poor concentration inability to identify objects, inability to perform a complex sequence of motor actions, changes in personality, and depression and anxiety.

What are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include: age, specific gene types, family history, head injury, low education and high systolic blood pressure.

What causes dementia?

Some causes of dementia are;

• Genetic mutations or the presence of pro-dementia genes

• Aging

• Stroke

• Hypertension and Diabetes

• Vitamin deficiencies

• Thyroid hormone imbalance

• Chronic infections

What is the most common cause of loss of memory?

In the elderly it is Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes in this age group include depression, anxiety, strokes, thyroid deficiency and vitamin deficiencies.

Do elderly patients seek help early if their memory starts to deteriorate?

Patients often don’t seek help early because motivation to seek help is usually also affected. Family and friends may often wait too long before seeking professional help for their loved ones.

Can I have my memory tested to make sure that it is normal?

Yes, a memory test is done by a neurologist that can determine if your memory is still within normal limits.

When is my memory impaired?

We all tend to forget important things from time to time and it may sometimes be difficult to work out when your memory is impaired. Your memory is impaired when you can’t function in normal everyday activities. When you consistently forget important information and are not able to function at work or at home.

Is poor memory in an elderly person normal?

Poor memory in older adults is not normal and cannot be always assumed to be due to Alzheimer’s disease. It should always be investigated to determine the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Can I exercise my memory and thus avoid Alzheimer’s disease altogether?

By exercising your memory, your brain benefits from stimulation and will form new connections. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop the onset of Alzheimer’s disease if you are destined to have this illness. Mental exercises may only postpone the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Does it help if you seek help early for a dementia condition?

Yes, medication can improve memory and these medications have the greatest effect in the early stages of the illness.

What are the best types of memory exercises?

There is no real scientific evidence to show that one form of activity may be better than another in order to exercise memory. The best type of memory stimulation is to always partake in an activity that is novel or new. Nothing beats socialization, attending meetings, and participating in senior club activities. Avoid repetitive exercises that do not stimulate the formation of new connections in the brain. An example of such an activity is knitting the same pattern repeatedly.

Are there any vitamins and herbal supplements that an elderly person can take to improve memory?

Many products are being advertised for the improvement of memory. Vitamin E is the only vitamin that has been proven in scientific studies to make a difference. One particular study was done in advanced Alzheimer’s disease and most scientists in Memory Clinics extrapolate from this that vitamin E could improve memory in other stages of the illness. Whether it does improve memory in persons not affected by dementia is controversial and not proven. However, for us it may be the closest thing to a memory vitamin.

Can medication help for poor memory?

Yes, in many cases medication can make a difference. Medications are available to improve memory and delay disease progression. Medication can also treat associated behavioral changes.

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