Contrary to what many people think, dementia is not a disease per se. It is an umbrella medical term used to describe several conditions and related symptoms associated with a decline in cognitive skills. Dementia symptoms are the result of medical conditions that are usually brought about by physical changes in the brain.
The symptoms may initially be mild and then as the underlying disease or condition progresses, the symptoms will also worsen. Most cases of dementia occur in the older population aged 65 and above. The risk of experiencing dementia increases with age.
Some symptoms are generally common to dementia patients, however, some are more specific, including the following –
Distinct Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia occurs as a result of reduced or blocked blood flow to the brain. In turn, the brain is deprived of its much-needed oxygen and nutrients. Its most common distinct symptoms are:
- Muscle weakness
- Temporary paralysis of one side of one side of the body
- Difficulty walking
- Problems with planning, reasoning and focusing
- Greater tendency to become emotional
Distinct Symptoms of Dementia with Lewy Bodies
This kind of dementia may show several symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer’s. It may also exhibit some similar symptoms to Parkinson’s disease. Dementia due to Lewy bodies accounts for up to fifteen percent of dementia cases. There are symptoms that are identifiable to dementia caused by Lewy bodies such as the following:
- Experiencing periods of drowsiness or inopportune alertness
- Having hallucinations
- Physical movements become sluggish
- Experiencing falls more often
- Fainting and difficulty sleeping
Distinct Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal Dementia or FTD is a term used to describe a group of conditions that occur as a result of progressive degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These two areas of the brain are responsible for language, behavioral and emotional control and decision-making. Its distinct symptoms are:
- Decreased sensitivity to other people’s feelings
- Increased tendency to binge on a certain food or drink
- Becoming apathetic
- Declining social awareness
Common Symptoms of Late-Stage Dementia
When dementia is in its advanced or late stage, the person’s memory and language problems will become severe.
This is when the person warrants constant attention from a caregiver. The most common symptoms of late stage dementia are the following:
Severe memory problems
The patient may no longer be able to recognize family and friends. They also have trouble remembering basic functional skills, such as where they live.
Unintentional weight loss
During the late stage of dementia the patient can forget about how to chew or swallow food. This can cause severe weight loss leading to malnutrition and choking, as well as triggering chest infections.
Reduced ability to communicate
Dementia patients will eventually find it hard to communicate effectively in words. During this stage, family and caregivers must make use of non-verbal gestures when conveying a message.
Declining physical abilities
Late-stage dementia patients will also lose their ability to walk and move about. They will need the help of other people when getting up from the bed and going to the bathroom or elsewhere. Using a wheelchair may become a necessity.
Worsening behavioral problems
This is when patients may start to have hallucinations and display aggressive behavior. They will also exhibit signs of depression and anxiety.
There are also dementia patients who will have bladder and/or bowel incontinence.
Unfortunately, most types of dementia are not ‘curable’. However, there are plenty of recognized ways to manage the symptoms. Doctors often prescribe medications in order to temporarily improve symptoms. Behavioral symptoms are treated using various types of therapies.