Dementia is one of the most debilitating illnesses known to man. Its challenges – both mental and physical – and the toll exacted is heart wrenching for all – the victim, family, close friends and those involved in Eldercare services, such as caregivers. It is also one of the most misunderstood of illnesses.

Interestingly enough, dementia is not a disease itself, but rather the total impact of symptoms that might accompany certain diseases or conditions. It is a collective term used to describe the problems that people with various underlying brain disorders or damage can have. When loss of mental functions – such as thinking, memory, reasoning – are severe enough to interfere with a person’s independent daily functioning, they are said to be at the stage of dementia.

Considered a late-life disease because it tends to develop mostly in elderly people, dementia develops when the parts of the brain that are involved with learning, memory, decision-making, and language are affected by any one or a combination of various infections or diseases. Symptoms also might include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Most types of dementia are slow and progressive. By the time the person shows signs of the disease, the process in the brain has been happening for a long time.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which makes up 50% to 70% of cases. It is also the best known and most common disorder under the umbrella of dementia. However there are, as we shall see, many other types of dementia. Although dementia has always been common, it has become even more common among the elderly in recent history. It is not clear if this increased frequency of dementia reflects a greater awareness of the symptoms or if people simply are living longer and thus are more likely to develop dementia in their older age.

Dementia caused by neurological degenerative disease, especially Alzheimer’s disease, is increasing in frequency more than most other types of dementia. Globally, dementia affects 36 million people. About 10% of people develop the disease at some point in their lives. It becomes more common with age, significantly effecting the elder population. About 3% of people between the ages of 65–74 have dementia, 19% between 75 and 84 and nearly half of those over 85 years of age. In 2013 dementia resulted in about 1.7 million deaths – up from 0.8 million in 1990. As more people are living longer, dementia is becoming more common in the population as a whole. For people of a specific age; however, it may be becoming less frequent, at least in the developed world, due to a decrease in risk factors. It is believed to result in economic costs of 604 billion dollars a year.

Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia other common types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Less common causes include normal pressure hydrocephalus, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, Progressive supranuclear palsy, and Corticobasal degeneration among others.

Future posts in this series will include, among other things, a discussion of the various types of dementia, symptomology, treatment methods – both traditional and alternative, risk factors, preventative measures and a look at Home Care options to allow the dementia patient to Age in Place (remain at home) for as long as possible thus alleviating some of the burden on the family.

Optimal Senior Care Solutions can help those seniors in your family suffering with dementia by providing in-home care giving services. Our caregivers routinely provide seniors with assistance with many activities of daily living.  Our Senior Care Plus program offers a wide range of information, education and referrals for many service providers, such as home modification contractors, reverse mortgages, exercise therapists, physical therapists, veteran’s home care, and more. Contact us today to learn more.