People over the age of 65 are those who are most often stricken with a brain disorder known as dementia, which, contrary to popular belief, is not the same thing as Alzheimer's. There is no cure for the disease which is both progressive and degenerative. The condition can rob a person of brain functions, such as memory, cognitive functions, reasoning, and language. At more advanced stages, it can take away the individual's ability to take care of themselves or participate in everyday activities which they formerly enjoyed doing. Advanced dementia means that the person is going to need round-the-clock supervision and assistance.
Most people who develop dementia start out by showing a lot of forgetfulness. Since this is a normal part of the aging process, people tend to ignore it in the initial stages. It's only when the condition worsens that people begin to notice. Many cases of dementia have been analyzed, and it has been determined that there are three definitive stages that are pretty much a pattern in every dementia case. Although not every patient will show every symptom, the disease progresses in all patients in a similar way.
The three distinct stages of dementia are:
1. Early stage – Symptoms of this stage include forgetfulness, apathy, absent-mindedness, loss of interest in taking initiative in activities, confusion, disorientation, memory loss, personality changes, diminished judgment, sudden mood swings, and irritability. Since these same symptoms can be part of other diseases as well as aging, it's often difficult to diagnose dementia until it progresses to at least the moderate stage.
2. Moderate stage – During this stage symptoms become easier to identify in order to positively diagnose the condition. Patients show a decline in cognitive abilities, the inability to recall even recent events, failure to identify family members, confusion about where they are and the time period they are in, ability to do simple tasks for themselves, such as eating, bathing, or grooming, a higher level of irritability, anxiety, frustration, agitation, and may experience visual or auditory hallucinations.
3. Advanced stage – At this point in the progress, patients need continuous care. They no longer speak or communicate in any way. They show no response to people around them and can no longer recognize family members or everyday objects. Some of the severe symptoms that develop include random movements, incontinence, mobility issues, insomnia, significant memory loss, and the inability to perform simple daily tasks for themselves. In the advanced stage, the patient requires nursing home or assisted living care.
In a few cases, dementia may be reversible if done and treated early. For most patients, though, treatment consists of presenting the patient with activities to help the mind stay sharp, feeding them a nutritious diet, and making them as comfortable as possible.