What is dementia?

Geriatric conditions result in impaired functionality and remain unrecognised unless the affected individual undergoes regular geriatric assessments. Continuous geriatric assessments help manage and delay complications from associated geriatric illnesses.

Dementia stands for a collection of neurological diseases and may arise in various forms, such as:

Alzheimer’s disease
Commonly known as a degenerative disease, Alzheimer’s disease is the slow death of healthy brain cells. Due to atrophy, the brain can shrink, which leads to cellular death.

Vascular dementia
Vascular dementia interferes with an individual’s thought processes due to inadequate blood supply to parts of the brain. Vascular dementia occurs as a result of stroke when a blood clot obstructs the brain’s artery.

Parkinson’s disease
Although Parkinson’s disease becomes obvious through physical symptoms, issues with cognitive function can start to occur. Cognitive decline leads to forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

Frontotemporal dementia
Frontotemporal dementia affects the person’s behaviour and language. This form of dementia targets both sides and the front of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia causes a person to act out of character.

Secondary causes of dementia
Additional causes related to dementia include damage to areas of the brain as a result of sudden trauma. Secondary dementia can arise due to lesions on the brain, hydrocephalus, hematoma, vitamin B12 deficiency and brain tumours.

What are the signs?

  • Difficulty remembering certain things
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unable to follow a conversation
  • Change in mood

An advanced stage of dementia can lead to the following:

  • Uncontrollable anger
  • Incontinence
  • Inability to perform everyday functions such as bathing, brushing teeth and getting dressed daily.

Who is at greater risk?

Older people, particularly those over 65, are at greater risk of dementia. Although young people can develop dementia, the condition is common amongst the elderly, affecting people eighty and over. Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes and unhealthy habits such as smoking can increase the risk of dementia.

How do you treat the condition?

Treatment for dementia depends on the classification of the condition. For example, Aducanumab is an immunosuppressant prescribed to treat Alzheimer-related dementia. Another type of dementia, vascular dementia, can be monitored by continuously checking the patient's cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Unfortunately, the only way to treat dementia is to manage the condition through prolonged medical care. There exist medications to prevent the progression of dementia and inhibit the mental and physical deterioration of the patient.


What types of tests are used to diagnose dementia?

Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) is a typical test used to diagnose dementia. The test assesses the patient's reading and writing skills and short-term memory.

Other tests include:

  • Genetic testing
  • Blood tests
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Neurological exam
Will an MRI show signs of dementia?

A brain scan (MRI) can be done to diagnose a brain tumour or stroke that could be the cause of dementia.

What are the early signs of dementia?
  • Problems recalling events
  • Confusion
  • Behavioural changes
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression