According to the World Health Organization, around 55 million people have dementia worldwide, and this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050. Dementia is not a specific disease; rather, it is an umbrella term used to describe a decline in mental ability that impacts everyday living – dementia is an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions. The most common symptom of dementia is memory loss.
Dementia is not part of the normal aging process. It is often caused by a disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Dementia caused by these diseases will gradually worsen over time.
Roughly 5.7 million people in the U.S. currently live with a form of dementia. Some early signs of dementia include:
- Difficulty with language, non-verbal communication, focus, reasoning or remembering
- Struggling with short-term memory, such as forgetting where they left an item
- Failing to recall why they entered a particular room
- Forgetting to attend appointments, take medication, or keep up with other commitments
- Struggling to communicate thoughts
- Experiencing mood changes like depression
- Losing interest in favorite activities or hobbies
Anyone who believes they may be in the stages of dementia should consult a physician. Dementia can sometimes be caused by a treatable disorder, and addressing the underlying disorder can reverse dementia. Such conditions include dementias caused by substance toxicity, thyroid disease, medication side effects, and infections.
The early stages of irreversible dementia require a degree of acceptance; accept the things that you (or a loved one) can’t do and accept a helping hand when you need one. However, early-stage dementia is not a death sentence – people in the early stages of irreversible dementia can take action to slow the course of the disease. Mental activities such as puzzles can slow down cognitive decline. Physical health also aids cognitive function, and cognitive decline can be retarded by an aerobic activity, limiting alcohol, and reducing caloric intake. Social interaction and engagement also help to decelerate the progression of dementia. The right caregiver can provide support as needs change to ensure safety and comfort.
This content is part of a partnership between Source of the Spring and Seniors Helping Seniors® home care services to promote wellness and healthy aging throughout the local community. Seniors Helping Seniors® home care provides services to support seniors so that they can maintain their independence and remain in their homes. For more information, visit shsbethesda.com. Photo: © Robert Kneschke – stock.adobe.com