Decades ago the common notion about people who grew old was that they would inevitably lose their proper cognitive function and memory, and also generally begin to regress into behavior akin to children. This was believed to be a natural part of aging back then, but it has since been debunked as a natural occurrence and is now known as dementia.
Those looking for some interesting facts about dementia will learn that it is not a single disease, but an overall term that covers a broader range of specific medical conditions that primarily target cognitive function.
Here are some interesting facts about dementia:
- Dementia is not a stand-alone disease, but rather a collection of conditions that include deterioration of cognitive function, significant memory loss, and behavioral issues
- Dementia is not a natural part of growing old
- The most common condition associated with dementia is Alzheimer’s disease
- In 2020 alone, an estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older have been documented as having Alzheimer’s disease
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that unless a cure for the condition is found, at least 14 million Americans are projected to have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by 2060
- Dementia could develop from a variety of diseases or even injuries that primarily affect the brain
- Dementia is ranked as the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases
- Dementia is cited as one of the major causes of disability in elderly people
- Dementia significantly affects the quality of life of the person who has it and the family the person is living with
- Alzheimer’s disease is held to kill more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined
- Developments in medical technology have significantly decreased the number of people dying from diseases like heart disease, but to this day, no cure or even mitigating measure has been discovered for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- People with dementia become so dependent on others for survival that 66% of all working caregivers in the United States care for at least one person with dementia
- The amount of care and medication-related expense for people with dementia is so significant that there is a limit to the extent of coverage for it given by insurance or healthcare providers
- A significant number of primary care physicians admitted they do not feel adequately prepared to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- There is an alarmingly low number of care professionals who specialize in geriatrics or are qualified to attend to people with dementia: (a) only 12% of the total number of practicing nurses in the US have specialized gerontological care training (b) less than 1% of the total number of registered nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists are known to specialize in geriatrics (c) only 4% of the total number of social workers in the US have a formal certification qualifying them for geriatric social work
- In 2022 alone, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related conditions will cost the US $321 billion, including $206 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments combined
- People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related conditions have twice as many hospital stays per year compared to other elderly people
- People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related conditions are more likely to have other chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease
What are the Types of Dementia?
The most common attribute observed in people suffering from dementia is pronounced memory loss, changes in behavior, and erratic reasoning. These symptoms, however, are not the only ones that typically manifest in a person with dementia, as many other types of dementia could afflict a person.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a condition that causes a type of dementia that rapidly gets progressively worse. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, or frontotemporal dementia, typically worsen much more slowly. This type of dementia, however, is quite rare, occurring only in about one person in one million annually worldwide.
The damage done to the brain by this disease leads to a rapid decline in thinking and reasoning, confusion, and mood changes. It also causes involuntary muscle movements and difficulty in locomotor skills, such as walking. The rapid degeneration caused by this disease makes it always fatal.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a progressive form of dementia that results in a decline in thinking, reasoning, and independent function. It may also manifest spontaneous changes in attention and alertness, recurrent visual hallucinations, REM sleep behavior disorder, significantly slowed movement, tremors, or rigidity.
This form of dementia has symptoms that are quite similar to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, leading many researchers to the theory that these conditions may be linked in some way to the same underlying abnormalities that occur in the brain. This disease is not necessarily fatal on its own but is known to afflict people until their natural death.
People afflicted with Down Syndrome have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in symptoms. Researchers believe that the same reason why people become afflicted with Down syndrome — the presence of extra genes — is also the same anomaly that leads them to develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
A major concern with people with Down Syndrome is that diagnosing dementia in them could be difficult due to the challenges involved in assessing thinking-skill changes in those already afflicted with intellectual disabilities.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or frontotemporal degeneration is a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell damage and eventual loss in the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes. The nerve cell damage caused by this condition leads to loss of function in these brain regions, which then leads to abrupt changes in the behavior and personality of the person who has it. It could also result in difficulty with comprehending language and verbal communication.
This form of dementia is not life-threatening on its own, but it is known to lead to an increased risk of developing other illnesses that could be serious and even life-threatening, such as pneumonia. It is also known to significantly increase the chances of a person who has it being involved in accidents as their reasoning skills become impaired.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive brain disorder believed to be caused by a defective gene. This disease causes changes in the central area of the brain that is associated with movement, mood, and thinking skills. As such, Huntington’s disease leads to drastic changes in mood, typically manifesting as depression, anxiety, and uncharacteristic anger and irritability. It is also observed to manifest as obsessive-compulsive behavior, causing a person to engage in repetitive speech or activities.
Huntington’s Disease is not immediately fatal, although it does gradually worsen over time and usually becomes fatal after 20 years.
Parkinson’s disease dementia is a steady decline in cognitive and reasoning skills that develops in some people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and manifests at least a year after diagnosis. This condition affects a region in the brain that plays a key role in the movement, leading to symptoms that include tremors and shakiness, muscle stiffness, a shuffling step, stooped posture, difficulty in initiating movement, and lack of facial expression.
As this condition progresses, difficulties in some mental functions will manifest, including memory impairment, decreased ability to pay attention, impaired judgment, and loss of ability to plan the steps needed to complete a task. Parkinson’s disease is not typically life-threatening in itself.
Vascular dementia manifests as a decline in cognitive skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain’s various regions, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients. The blockage could be due to a stroke, which is known to cause blockages in major blood vessels in the brain. It could also be due to relatively minor damage that gradually worsens as a result of multiple minor strokes, or even other conditions that affect smaller blood vessels in the brain, leading to widespread damage.
Vascular dementia often coexists with effects linked to other types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Numerous studies suggest that vascular changes and other brain abnormalities could interact in ways that increase the likelihood of a dementia diagnosis. Vascular dementia is not directly fatal, but could significantly shorten life expectancy by increasing the likelihood of serious complications.
What is the Difference between Forgetfulness and Dementia?
Memory loss is a hallmark of growing old, which is why many mistake dementia as a natural part of growing old. Impairment of a person’s memory could be due to several reasons, although it is a common facet of advanced age. Transcience is a condition of the brain where some memories are forgotten over time as the brain removes unused memories. This is a natural part of growing old. Absentmindedness is also a natural part of growing old. It manifests when people forget things like appointments, which could be due to the person not prioritizing the appointment, or they were simply too preoccupied with something else to focus on developing a memory association for the appointment.
Memory loss due to dementia is different from the natural memory issues that come with age in that it is progressive. The extent of memory loss that happens when a person has dementia could be so severe that they would need to be moved to an assisted living facility. Memory loss in a person with dementia could also be accompanied by a drastic change in personality and chronic disorientation.
Is there a Way to Prevent or Treat Dementia?
As medical science stands today, there is no way to prevent or treat dementia. At best, prevention could be limited to a healthy lifestyle that minimizes conditions that affect and degrade the brain, such as strokes and head injuries brought on by accidents due to weakness.
In most cases, the best way to ensure better living conditions for someone with dementia is to move them to Shepherd Premier Senior Living in Crystal Lake, Illinois which provides assisted living services, so that there would be constant care and monitoring provided to the person with dementia.
There is Still a Safe Haven to be Found for the Elderly at Shepherd Premiere Senior Living
There is no reason why people with dementia or other conditions associated with age cannot live in comfort and care. Shepherd Premier Senior Living provides senior living care and assistance to everyone in their assisted living facilities. We know all about the special care our elderly folk requires, and more than anyone else, we believe that they deserve nothing less. Contact us today.