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Dementia is not a single disease but a neurological syndrome identified by a decline of the intellectual or cognitive functions of the brain. This decline is accompanied by changes in behavior and personality severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living such as interacting with others, eating, dressing and personal hygiene. While conscious control may be clear, there is a noticeable disturbance in memory, thinking, attention, problem solving, calculation, comprehension, language and judgment.
Dementia affects less than 1 person in 1,000 under the age of 65. Over the age of 65, the incidence grows to 5 in 100. Of the population who reaches age 80, 1 person in 5 will have some form of dementia [Source; Kingshill Research Centre, UK]. The condition has many causes.
Types of Dementia
Many conditions cause dementia or a state that resembles it. Remember that a diagnosis of "dementia" alone is not enough - a few of these conditions are treatable or even reversible, so it's worthwhile chasing the underlying factors behind your own or your care recipient's difficulties. The main causes of dementia or dementia-like symptoms include:
The severity of dementia varies from person to person and a sufferer's life expectancy depends on the variety of dementia and how early it was diagnosed. For example, if the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, the most common form of dementia, are recognized and treatment begins early, the person with Alzheimer's may live 10 or more years after the diagnosis.
Common symptoms found in the early stages of dementia include:
These symptoms are also common to depression, stress and bereavement. If, however, you have concerns that these symptoms signal dementia, you should raise your concerns with your family doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Some forms of dementia can be treated, while others may require careful planning for future care.