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Understand the Process and Experience of Dementia Essay Sample

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Understand the Process and Experience of Dementia Essay Sample

Diagnosing the Dementia

Growing older is not easy. Growing older causes many physical, biochemical and physiological changes in the body, and especially in the brain. Advances in neurosciences and imaging technology mean better knowledge of normal age-related brain changes than ever before. At the level of cells, normal cognitive processes and memory ultimately depend on the ability of neurons in the brain to function by creating action potentials and communicate using synapses. With advancing age, the density of grey matter and the number of dendritic spines on neurons decreases. The changing brain function in normal aging can be measured regarding accuracy and speed of information processing, attention, motivation, episodic memory, and working memory.

The decline in normal brain function associated with dementia is not the same as healthy aging processes. Dementia is a syndrome caused by disease of the brain. Two key networks, the hippocampus, and the neocortical circuits appear to be particularly vulnerable to the kinds of synaptic alteration that is one of the factors of dementia; many biochemical pathways that affect gene expression may be involved. The risk of dementia increases as people get older and it is incurable; the disease cuts lives short, although those suffering from it often die of infections such as pneumonia.

The general criteria for diagnosing dementia include the development of multiple cognitive deficits manifested by memory impairment, aphasia (language disturbance), impaired ability to carry out activities, agnosia (failure to recognize or identify objects), or a disturbance in executive function (problem-solving or planning). These cognitive deficits result in major impairment in social or occupational functioning and represent a substantial decline from a previous level of functioning.

A disposition to dementia increases with age. It is estimated worldwide, that over 35 million people suffer from the disease. Alzheimer’s dementia is the most prevailing type of dementia comprising 50-75% of the disease.

Factors Associated with the Development of Dementia

Aspects associated with the development of dementia include age, genetic factors, gender, comorbid illnesses, environment, and lifestyle. Age is the strongest risk factor for the development of all types of dementia. Gender is a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in women is higher than that in men. Genetic studies have shown a significant relationship between the APOE genotype and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is associated with the following conditions: diabetes, infections such as HIV, traumatic brain injury, and cardiovascular disease. Environmental factors refer to nutritional status and exposure to toxic agents. The relationship between environmental factors and the development of dementia is unclear. Some scientists suggested the theory that some metals such as aluminum, iron, copper, and zinc are related to dementia. Additionally, studies have shown that physical activity is associated with the preservation of cognition.

Protective Factors against Dementia

Protective factors against the development of dementia include advanced education, moderate alcohol use, and diet. In studies which examined the relationship between educational level and dementia, individuals with less education had a higher risk of dementia. The association between education and dementia is not definitive as there is some speculation that individuals with lower educational level may have a lower premorbid cognitive function. Some studies have identified alcohol consumption as protective from dementia. However, additional studies are needed to confirm this relationship, because other experiments showed that excessive alcohol consumption might be associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Experiencing Dementia

We may all forget recent conversations or events, but forgetful people can usually still remember other facts related to things they have forgotten. Nevertheless, a decline in short-term memory is the most obvious signal of dementia, but some or all of the following may become increasingly apparent:

  • Changes in behavior or mood. Often mood swings or showing more or less emotion than is usual for the person, or becoming more aggressive or likely to blame others for mistakes.
  • People with dementia may find it hard to perform familiar tasks to the same standard. As dementia progresses, he or she might start to go wrong when getting dressed, cleaning their teeth or preparing a meal and may get slower at grasping new ideas.
  • It is not always easy to spot changes in personality, but a person with dementia may become more agitated, suspicious, depressed or irritable than before. He or she may make comments that are hurtful, tell jokes that are offensive or curse, and use foul language or display behaviors that are completely out of character.
  • Becoming lost in previously familiar places, confusing night and day or forgetting where they are now and how they got there are signs of disorientation to time and place in the person with dementia.
  • People with dementia may be affected by a loss of initiative so enthusiasm for work, hobbies and everyday activities may disappear and they might spend hours sleeping or sitting.
  • Problems with language may mean that a person with dementia substitutes repeats or forgets simple words, all of which may mean it is difficult for family and the one who cares to understand them.

Cure for People with Dementia

The greater part of care for people with dementia is provided by their relatives. All caregivers start off in one role, such as husband or daughter, with history and way of being in their relationships with this other adult. As dementia progresses, parts of this original role recede, and the caregiver assumes some or all of the following roles:

  • decision maker – with, and then on behalf of, the person;
  • protector – preserving the self-image of the person, as well as physically protecting from harm;
  • advocate – promoting the interests of the person with dementia;
  • supervisor – ensuring the person with dementia can undertake activities appropriately;
  • monitor-observing changes in the individual as well as the quality of care provided by others;
  • instrumental carry – providing the activities of daily living, including the physical, emotional and social tasks the person with dementia can no longer perform.

It is important to understand the disease, the range of roles the carer plays and the signs of dementia for all people; because we are not forever young. Be ready to get old.

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