April 12, 2010
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning and intellectual reasoning due to changes in the brain caused by disease. Those with dementia tend to repeat questions, become disoriented in familiar places, neglect personal hygiene or nutrition, or get confused about people or time. It can be caused by many things, some of which are reversible – such as vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition, to reactions to medications or problems with the thyroid. However, some forms of dementia are irreversible, such as that caused by mini strokes or Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's disease occurs when the nerve cells deteriorate in the brain due to a build up of plaques and tangles, which actually results in the death of a large number of brain cells. Doctors are not sure why this occurs, but research is underway to determine causes and cures. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.4 million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer's disease.
It is important to remember that Alzheimer's is a medical condition and disease of the brain. If the brain affects thoughts, feelings, personality, and behavior, then Alzheimer's is going to affect how your loved one thinks, what he feels, who he is, and what he does. The range of symptoms can be enormous. Also, people with Alzheimer's don't necessarily "look" sick. Although Alzheimer's disease is a physical illness, it often doesn't affect a person's appearance until the later stages of the disease. This might be confusing to you because your loved one may seem as healthy as ever, but just acting differently.
If you are caring for someone in this situation, you may find it helpful to read these tips on how to cope with Alzheimer's and dementia.
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