Senile dementia is a disease caused by degeneration of the brain cells. It's different from normal senility in the elderly. The patient's brain function will gradually deteriorate resulting in progressive loss of memory and mental abilities, and noticeable personality changes.
There are many causes of senile dementia. These can be categorized into three main groups:
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of senile dementia. The causes are not yet known, and up to now there is no effective treatment. Patients with Alzheimer's disease deteriorate very gradually, so the disease is often not detected in its early stages.
Multi-infarct dementia is caused by a series of minor strokes. It usually results from damage to the small blood vessels in the brain causing deprivation of blood supply to the brain cells thus affecting its function. Patients' abilities will decline in ladder-like pattern.
Other causes of senile dementia include depression, poor nutrition, thyroid dysfunction, drug poisoning, alcoholism, and so on. This kind of dementia can often be corrected by treating the underlying diseases.
What are the symptoms of senile dementia?
Symptoms at the early stage include the following:
- Forget recent events and distant memory also fades as the disease progresses
- Experience difficulty in reasoning, calculation, and accepting new things
- Become confused over time, place and direction
- Affect the activity of daily living
- Judgment will be reduced
- Personality will be changed
- Become passive and lose initiative.
Symptoms at the middle stage include the following:
- Lose cognitive ability, such as the ability to learn, judge, and reason
- Become emotionally unstable, and easily lose temper or become agitated
- Need help from his or her family with activities of daily living
- Confuse night and day, and disturb the family's normal sleeping time.
Symptoms at the later stage include the following:
- Lose all cognitive ability
- Become entirely incapable of self-care, including eating, bathing, and so on
- Neglect personal hygiene, and will become incontinent
- Lose weight gradually, walk unsteadily and become confined to bed.
What are the treatments for senile dementia?
Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia are degenerative diseases, and up to now there is no effective treatment. It's best to recognize the symptoms early and be diagnosed and assessed by the doctor. There are currently some medications and natural treatments available to slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease
. In cases where curative treatment is not available, the family can learn about the disease and provide suitable care measures and assistance to the patients’ relative.
What should I do if I believe my loved one has senile dementia
If you recognize the symptoms of senile dementia in your family member, you should immediately take the following steps:
- Consult your doctor to confirm the diagnosis
- Join a family support group for senile dementia patients. This will help to ease the pressure of looking after the patient through sharing of experience
- Take advantage of social services such as day care centers for the elderly
- Explain your loved one's illness to your relatives and neighbors to gain their understanding and support
- Make alteration in your home environment to prevent accidents
- Establish a daily routine for the patient to reduce his feelings of confusion
- Have the patient wear a wrist bracelet labeled with his name and telephone number. Always have a recent photo of the patient at home so that it will help to find him if he get lost.