Understanding the causes, symptoms and the role of caregivers for Dementia

Currently more than 55 million people have dementia worldwide, most of them are from low and middle socioeconomic countries. Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
Dementia is a term for several diseases that affect memory, thinking, and the ability to perform daily activities. It can be caused by a number of diseases which over time destroy nerve cells and damage the brain, typically leading to deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing. The illness gets worse over time. It mainly affects older people but not all people will get it as they age.

Things that increase the risk of developing dementia include:

● age (more common in those 65 or older)
● high blood pressure (hypertension)
● high blood sugar (diabetes)
● being overweight or obese
● smoking
● drinking too much alcohol
● being physically inactive
● being socially isolated
● depression

Signs and symptoms

Changes in mood and behaviour sometimes happen even before memory problems occur. Symptoms get worse over time. Eventually, most people with dementia will need others to help with daily activities.

Early signs and symptoms are:

● forgetting things or recent events
● losing or misplacing things
● getting lost when walking or driving
● being confused, even in familiar places
● losing track of time
● difficulties solving problems or making decisions
● problems following conversations or trouble finding words
● difficulties performing familiar tasks

As the disease progresses, the need for help with personal care increases. People with dementia may not be able to recognize family members or friends, develop difficulties moving around, lose control over their bladder and bowls, have trouble eating and drinking and experience behaviour changes such as aggression that are distressing to the person with dementia as well as those around them.

Are Alzheimer disease and Dementia synonymous?

Alzheimer disease is the most common form and may contribute to 60–70% of cases. However, there are other causes as well.

Is Dementia treatable?

Few dementias are treatable. However, for most of the dementias there is no cure. But a lot can be done to support both people living with the illness and those who care for them. People with dementia should be supported to maintain their quality of life and promote their well-being by being physically active and taking part in activities and social interactions that stimulate the brain and maintain daily function.
In addition, some medications can help manage dementia symptoms.


For those diagnosed with dementia, there are things that can help manage symptoms:

● Stay physically active.
● Eat healthily.
● Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
● Get regular check-ups with your doctor.
● Write down everyday tasks and appointments to help you remember important things.
● Keep up your hobbies and do things that you enjoy.
● Try new ways to keep your mind active.
● Spend time with friends and family and engage in community life.

Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of biological ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people – young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by being physically active, not smoking, avoiding alcohol abuse, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, social isolation, low educational attainment, and air pollution.

Role of caregivers:

In developed countries, professionally trained caregivers are available who take care of the persons suffering from dementia. However, in India, professional caregivers are not readily available. Other family members should support their beloved ones suffering from Dementia and train themselves. Communicating with a person who suffers from dementia requires a unique set of skills. Patients are likely to have mood swings, erratic changes in behaviour and difficulty in communication. So, the caregivers should be compassionate to them. Dementia patients often forget to take their daily medications. Caregivers provide reliable medication reminders as a part of their daily responsibilities. Loneliness and boredom plague a significant majority of seniors with dementia. Regular companionship is essential to well-being, and dementia caregivers provide plenty of positive social interaction, they also help in daily personal care like bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, feeding etc.



Though all attempts are made to provide correct information on the subject, inadvertent & typographical errors arising out of manual intervention cannot be ruled out. It is requested to bring any such discrepancies to the notice of the blogger for correction