Dementia

Dementia

Dementia is a loss of mental ability memory, judgment, and ability to think. While there are numerous causes of dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the most common. For someone with dementia, life is confusing; it's difficult to remember so many things; personality may change. Medication can help control behavior problems, and some drugs can slow the rate of decline.

Recently Answered

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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    If a person with dementia doesn't want children around, it's better not to force the issue. What happens frequently with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease -- a form of dementia -- is that is a lot of censoring functions that people have, or the kinds of things that keep them steady and even, tend to go away. Therefore, they may suddenly not enjoy children anymore. In this situation, shorter visits, so the kids aren’t there that long, are better. The person with dementia may simply not enjoy the same dose of children any longer.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Dementia progresses at different rates for different people. Some people with dementia decline rapidly -- over a period of two to three years. Other people have had eight to 10 years with the disease, and others have had very stable levels of functioning and then a precipitous decline at the end.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Doctors cannot really predict how a person with dementia will decline. There are not reliable ways to determine which people with dementia will develop complications or when. Typically, the onset of these tends to be slow. However, there are also cases of fairly rapid decline. That's why it's smart to make contingency plans in the event the decline happens sooner than later.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    It is a very common complication of dementia for the same kinds of questions to be asked over and over again. Typically, they are related to a loved one who has passed on. A good approach is to answer that question and then move on and try to distract the person so that she thinks about something else. For example, "Yes, Dad passed away last year. Why don’t we go take a walk?"
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    When people with dementia refuse to eat, doctors generally recommend letting them eat whatever they’d like to eat, whenever they’d like to eat it. However, people sometimes ask about using feeding tubes, which are inserted through the stomach. Doctors do not recommend or offer feeding tubes to people with advanced dementia.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    A person may be diagnosed with dementia early in the course of the disease, and it may be up to ten years before he or she succumbs to it. There are a couple of milestones that indicate a person with dementia is approaching the end of life. The first is becoming non-ambulatory -- when people with dementia stop walking. The other is when they stop eating.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Whether you should discuss dementia with the person who has it may depend on his or her condition. In the early stages of dementia, you can include patients in discussions about their disease. In the later stages, doctors really need to rely on family members and caregivers. Doctors try to aim for the highest level of independence that works for everyone.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    There are several cognitive functions that can be affected by dementia. Along with memory loss, cognitive problems associated with dementia include:
    • Aphasia, or problems expressing and understanding language
    • Apraxia, or difficulty performing motor functions such as combing hair or driving
    • Agnosia, or not being able to recognize where you are or even familiar places. People with end-stage dementia frequently cannot recognize people.
    • Executive function, or how people organize and plan to complete tasks
    For a diagnosis of dementia, you have to have memory problems and at least one of the other conditions, and it has to affect daily life.
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    ADavid Reuben, MD, Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Dementia is a disease of aging. Very few people who are younger than 65 develop dementia. Almost half the senior population older than 85 has dementia.
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    AAARP Driver Safety answered
    This answer is based on a publication and research conducted by The Hartford and MIT AgeLab:

    Some persons in early stages of dementia may have sufficient driving abilities to continue driving with limitations. They should be given the opportunity to make decisions about driving, if safety is not compromised.

    Over time, such individuals will become incapable of accurately assessing their driving skills. Anyone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, or any other form of progressive dementia, will eventually lose the skills necessary for safe driving. In these cases, families and doctors must collaborate to protect the individual and may need to take immediate unilateral action.

    Families of persons with dementia may not realize that getting lost in familiar places is a serious warning sign. Persons who are confused and forgetful may also lack the ability to respond appropriately to ever-changing road conditions.

    Families should be vigilant about observing driving behavior. Firsthand knowledge of driving behavior will help families know if and when they need to intervene.