Symptoms and diagnosis
Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn’t a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia.
Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. Having memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of causes of dementia. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms may be reversible.
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
“Dementia is a major global health problem; in the absence of a cure there is increasing focus on risk reduction, timely diagnosis, and early intervention.”
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
Occasional memory lapses are common as people get older, especially in the presence of stress, depression, and acute physical illness; review the patient after appropriate treatment has been given or a reasonable length of time has elapsed
If you suspect dementia, take a history from both the patient and the main family carer; the latter’s suspicions are often correct
Be aware that certain groups of people are at greater risk of developing dementia—for example, those who have had a stroke and those with Parkinson’s disease
Early identification of modifiable risk factors for dementia may reduce the numbers of people developing dementia in later life
Effective and useful treatments exist for people with dementia; have a low threshold for referring someone with suspicious symptoms for a specialist memory assessment
Assess both the physical and the mental health of the main family carer; supporting informal carers is an important part of dementia care