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Dementia 101: Diagnosis, Types, Stages, & Care Options

As the percentage of elderly folks in Singapore climbs, so is the population of people at risk of developing dementia. Without a doubt, ageing is the time of life when we experience health complications. Memory problems and Alzheimer's are two of elders' most prominent illnesses. Although it is frequently unavoidable, it is not considered the norm. Dementia puts a senior's health and welfare in danger, so giving the finest possible care is critical. Yet, until we can do anything about it, we must grasp dementia, notably its early symptoms and stages, to recognise and seek early diagnosis.

What Is Dementia?

In general, dementia is a gradual, degenerative disease that diminishes a person's cognitive ability. Primarily, defective protein structures in the brain, aberrant protein development surrounding brain cells, or interrupted connections across brain cells are the major culprits. Early-onset dementia is a condition that usually develops and is, therefore, more prevalent among older folks, and that can come as early as age 40 in certain people.

How Does Dementia Differ from Alzheimer's Disease?

Although the terms dementia and Alzheimer's disease are frequently used colloquially, they are not synonymous. Dementia, usually a mild cognitive impairment, is a broad word that refers to a variety of diseases that affect memory, reasoning, perception, problem-solving, and speech. It is usually associated with mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimer's disease, on the other contrary, is a form of dementia characterised by memory loss and progressive cognitive deterioration.

Dementia in Singapore

As per official figures, dementia affects 5.2 percent of Singaporeans aged 65 and over. And to the Singapore Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Board, 53,000 Singaporeans will develop dementia, with that number estimated to rise to 187,000 by 2050. Although this is a cause for concern, the Singaporean state recognises that numerous initiatives for dementia-affected seniors are in place. Since dementia cannot be cured, many treatments are available to slow its progression, including personalised and medical care.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Early Dementia?

Everyone is perceived differently by dementia and early-onset Alzheimer's disease. It depends on the area of the brain that has been damaged and the patient's character. Memory loss, coupled with behavioural and psychological symptoms, are among the most frequent dementia risk factors. While additional dementia symptoms to watch for include:

Memory Loss

Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, but it differs from regular forgetfulness since dementia is far more chronic and can interfere with daily responsibilities. Alzheimer's disease and dementia can cause people to forget names of whom they have known for decades or simply their meal for the day.

Disorientation With Time and Environment

For the most part, we find things puzzling and frequently forget what day it is. However, in cases of a rare brain disorder, like dementia, it can easily cause people to lose track of location and time. It's why several elderly become disoriented and lose track of where they are as well as how to return home, that indeed a significant condition that sets their safety in danger.

Difficulty Performing Familiar or Basic Tasks

As dementia progresses, even the most fundamental chores can become challenging for the elderly. For people living with dementia, simple tasks like eating, taking meds, and even putting on clothing correctly can become impossible.

Problems With Speech or Communication

Dementia patients frequently have difficulty finding the appropriate words to express themselves. Simply to just get their point clearly, they may forget simple phrases or replace them with a unique string of words.

Personality Changes or Mood Swings

Sudden mood swings or emotional changes are among the symptoms of dementia. The patients may struggle to maintain emotional control. They may become abnormally sensitive or too emotional all of a sudden. They may also experience mood swings, like becoming more irritated if they were previously gentle.

Poor Judgment Skills

Individuals with declining cognitive and critical thinking abilities have problems with judgment and decision-making. They lose their ability to make sensible decisions and frequently make illogical choices.

Misplacing Things

People with short-term memory loss or memory issues in general sometimes misplace their belongings. They couldn't recall where they had last left an object and might have a hard time retracing their ways.

Losing Interest in Work or Social Activities

Absence from work or community engagements is one of the symptoms of dementia. They generally avoid activities requiring social interaction in favour of passive pursuits such as watching tv or napping for long periods. They also cease doing the activities in their daily lives that they used to like.

Difficulty in Planning and Problem-Solving

The inability to organise and solve problems has been one of the symptoms of dementia. Making and sticking to plans is challenging for people with dementia.

How Is Dementia Diagnosed?

Once it concerns dementia diagnosis, there is no such thing as a single test. Numerous medical tests are available to detect if you or a loved one already has the condition. It is also not identified as a single disease but rather is divided into many categories based on the reason, of which the severity of dementia affects the assessment of the stages.

Cognitive and Neuropsychological Tests

Such examinations evaluate a person's memory, reasoning, judgment, and orienting skills. It will look into just how brain health influences overall thinking and behaviour, as well as the general connection between the two. The test is required if you or an aged family member shows signs of dementia or has a memory or cognitive ability problems.

Brain Scans

Brain tumours and stroke are also potential causes of dementia. Brain scans, however, can contribute to their diagnosis. The following are perhaps the most frequently used scans:

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans - Radiation-based imaging tests that provide brain activity images.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scans - Computers and x-ray devices often create cross-sectional images of the brain and other body organs.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans - A noninvasive test that creates high-resolution images of the brain and other body systems using strong radio waves and magnetic fields.

Genetic Tests

Although it is rare, dementia can be handed down down the generations. Genetic tests are used to determine whether or not someone is at risk of developing dementia. If you've had a close relative who has been diagnosed with dementia, you should consider taking a genetic test.

Laboratory Tests

When it concerns a physical exam, lab testing may be required. It is done to check for any indicators of medical issues that could lead to dementia. Blood tests, thyroid hormone testing, and lumbar punctures are among the procedures that doctors will use to examine the levels of various substances, vitamins, and hormones in the body. They can rule out alternative causes of dementia-like symptoms by completing these tests.

Psychiatric Evaluation

The evaluation of mental health mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among several others, is part of this approach to diagnosis. It's beneficial to people with dementia since it can aid in diagnosing memory, behaviour, and cognitive difficulties.

10 Most Common Types of Dementia

Alzheimer's disease is probably the most well-known common form of dementia. In general, it is a syndrome, not a disease, with indications shared by several brain disorders. It will deteriorate over time; however, drugs may assist with symptoms, including behavioural changes. However, there are other varieties of dementia that most people are unaware of. Meanwhile, here are the ten most prominent dementias:

  1. Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's, which is probably the most prominent type, is marked by the death of brain cells and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all forms of dementia. The condition is more common in older people, with early indicators of depression, disorientation, mood disturbances, short-term memory problems, and difficulty walking and talking.

  1. Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease, in its latter stages, can lead to dementia. Early signs include problems with logic and judgment. As the illness progresses, this can lead to disorientation, hallucinations, speech problems, and paranoia.

  1. Frontotemporal Dementia

Pick's disease is a terminology that refers to a group of dementias that affect the front and sides of the brain. These are the areas of our brain that regulate our speech and behaviour. People as young as 45 are susceptible. Loss of motivation, compulsive tendencies, and losing the sense of simple or fundamental phrases are just a few of the symptoms.

  1. Vascular Dementia

The second most prevalent type of dementia, vascular dementia, accounts for 20% of all dementias and is caused by a loss of blood supply to the brain. The disorder is more common in elderly adults and has been linked to stroke. Regardless of what triggered it, the symptoms may arise suddenly or gradually. During the early stages, disorientation and confusion are common symptoms. Patients may have difficulty concentrating and finishing tasks as the disease progresses.

  1. Lewy Body Dementia

The little, spherical aggregates of protein that grow within the brain cells are known as Lewy bodies. It might cause neuronal signals and transmission to be disrupted. Memory loss, visual hallucinations, confusion, and sleep disturbances are all symptoms of this neurological disorder.

  1. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

The disease is considered the least prevalent kind of dementia, with only one in every million individuals being diagnosed. Although uncommon, it advances quickly, and people who have it frequently die within a year after being diagnosed. Memory loss, disorientation, anxiety, and agitation are some of the symptoms. Other symptoms of this condition include muscle twitching and tightness.

  1. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Despite the fact that Wernicke's disease and Korsakoff syndrome are two related but distinct diseases, they are sometimes lumped together. It is not a kind of dementia, but it has similar symptoms. A vitamin B-1 shortage causes Wernicke disease, which causes bleeding in the lower parts of the brain. Malnutrition or chronic illnesses can induce vitamin insufficiency, but drinking is the most common cause. It can cause signs and symptoms, including loss of muscular coordination and double vision if left untreated. 

  1. Huntington's Disease

It is a hereditary kind of dementia that mostly affects many young people. Since the brain's nerve cells die down prematurely, this illness can cause dementia and movement problems. Huntington's disease is divided into two forms, one for children and the other for adults. Juvenile symptoms begin during the patient's childhood or early adolescence, whereas adult-onset symptoms are present in the late 30s or early 40s.

Symptoms comprise walking difficulties, twitching, and difficulty swallowing. While, indications of dementia involve challenges with impulse control, difficulties concentrating on tasks, and trouble communicating.

  1. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH)

It's a disorder in which fluid builds up in the brain's ventricles, causing symptoms of dementia. Injuries, haemorrhage, a brain tumour, infections, and past brain surgery are all possible reasons. Forgetfulness, poor balance, anxiety, mood changes, frequent falls, and lack of bladder control are all symptoms of this condition.

  1. Mixed Dementia

A person with mixed dementia has far more least 1 type of dementia, as the term implies. Although it is rather prevalent, most people are unaware that they have it. Combining vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease is the most typical. The much more signs and symptoms are difficulties speaking and walking.

The 7 Stages of Dementia

In general, various scales and procedures have been used to track dementia development. The Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS), known colloquially as the Reisberg Scale, is, nonetheless, the most often used scale. There are seven stages of dementia, each of which is divided into four levels — no dementia, early-stage dementia, mid-stage dementia, and late-stage dementia.

No Dementia

Stage 1: No Cognitive Decline

Predicated on the physician's diagnostic interview and examination, stage 1 is when there are no indicators of dementia. The patients are in good mental health and can function normally. There is no clinical manifestation of dementia, such as behavioural issues, memory problems, or other causes.

Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

It is usually around this point that people start to forget things. It is a common symptom of senior age. Misplacing objects or forgetting names are the most common manifestations.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

The indicators seem to be more severe in this stage compared to stage 2 and involve a wider variety of parameters such as minor difficulty in focus, poor work performance, verbal regurgitation, speech difficulties, and being easily confused in directives. The average length of time for this stage is two to seven years at most.

Early-Stage Dementia

Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline

Moderate cognitive deterioration is the only stage of dementia in this category. Different medical examinations can reveal signs of stage 4 dementia which lasts about four years at least. Misplacing objects, difficulty concentrating, losing track of time, forgetting names and recent events, and isolation from peers are some of the symptoms that people with this stage of dementia may encounter or acquire.

Mid-Stage Dementia

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

It is especially important during this period because the patients are unable to undertake activities of daily living (ADLs) on their own. They increasingly require support with basic necessities such as food, clothing, showering, and other activities. The signs are easier to spot here, and memory loss is more prevalent.

Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline

Patients are having severe communication difficulties at this stage, and they are unable to do ADLs without guidance. Severe forgetfulness, increasing unawareness of the environment, heightened sleeping issues and interruptions, difficulty counting backwards from ten, intensified irritation and aggressiveness, absence of bladder control, and behavioural and temperamental changes are among the indications.

Late-Stage Dementia

Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

This is the final and most important stage, as it is at this point that all speech talents have been compromised. Inability to walk, having trouble eating and swallowing, considerable weight gain or loss, loss of urinary incontinence, motor skills, and speech, as well as hyperactivity and outbursts, are all indicators of this stage.

Various Factors on How Quickly Does Dementia Progress

Only such a small portion of the brain is affected in the early stages of dementia. Just the abilities that rely on the injured region of the brain are impacted; thus, there are fewer symptoms at this stage. The symptoms of the various types of dementia kinds tend to grow more similar as dementia advances into its middle and later stages. As dementia advances, more areas of the brain get impacted.

 As more of the brain becomes unable to function properly, there are more clinical signs. Simultaneously, parts of the brain that have already been injured become quite damaged, worsening the person's symptoms.

The rate at which dementia advances differs greatly from one person to the next due to factors including:

  • Age

  • Type of Dementia

  • Genetics

  • Emotional Resilience

  • Support From Family and Healthcare Services

  • Daily Routine

  • Overall Physical Health

  • Cardiovascular Health

  • Diabetes

  • Stroke

  • Repeated Infections

  • Other Underlying Conditions

How Is It Important to Know the Different Stages of Dementia

Helps in Determining the Best Treatment

Elderly folks suffering from dementia go through many stages at varying rates and experience diverse symptoms. Consult a physician if you think you're showing the onset of the disease. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease or other prevalent dementias, early detection can enable patients and their relatives to make future preparations. Early detection also permits individuals to take part in a study, which aids researchers in developing therapeutic approaches and ultimately finding a cure.

What Is Necessary Care Needed to Get Through the Stages of Dementia?

Taking care of seniors with dementia is a difficult responsibility, but this will considerably improve their quality of life. Here are some suggestions for caring for close family members or dear ones who suffer from cognitive decline:

Early Stages

Maintain Their Independence

Allow the dementia patient to accomplish more than necessary with as little support as possible. For instance, when you lay out garments in the sequence they do it on, they might be capable of setting the table using cues or changing freely.

Establish a Routine to Delay the Disease From Worsening

Maintain a consistent daily schedule for the elderly. Other responsibilities, including showering or going to the doctor, are more manageable when the patient is attentive and energised. Allow for some wiggle room for unexpected events or particularly trying days.

Middle Stages

ADL Assistance

The symptoms and development of Alzheimer's disease fluctuate from patient to patient. Make these helpful hints specific to the needs of your close relative. Discipline and flexibility, as well as self-care and indeed the encouragement of relatives and friends, can encourage you in dealing with the obstacles and difficulties that lie ahead.

Late Stages

Occupational Therapist

There are alternative treatments to aid in alleviating the disease's complications. When symptom management is combined with community resources or a medical professional like an occupational therapist, it can help the individual can enjoy a meaningful life for many years. Since these treatments target the disease's manifestations, there is presently no way of preventing, curing or halting the disease's advancement.

Blended Meals and Smoothies

Prepare food that is low in calories and high in veggies while maintaining a nutritious diet. Small amounts of meals, such as healthy smoothies and other alternatives, can be included to keep the patients in shape and in good health.

Seek Professional Help and Care With Red Crowns Memory Care Homes

 

One must learn and comprehend everything about dementia in order to give the best possible care for their ageing loved ones. It's not a common or straightforward disease to deal with, so having the appropriate information, using the right approaches, and seeking help from the right person can considerably decrease the challenges it causes.

Ultimately, turn to a nursing home alternative like Red Crowns Senior Living for guidance in acquiring the required care, attention, and support for your family members even in the early stages of their cognitive difficulties. Most importantly, your elderly loved one will be able to receive all of the medical treatment and personal nursing care which they deserve while dealing with the horrors of this disorder within the walls of our memory care homes.

Get in touch with us.

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