CONFUSION OF TERMS
So what is Dementia? For one thing, if you suffer from dementia it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crazy or demented. Dementia (meaning, “deprived of mind”) is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging.
Demented behaviour in individuals, on the other hand, is when they are brainsick characterised or affected mainly with madness, sense of grandeur, unresolved anger, blind rage, a depraved temper, insanity or rash folly such as when a person is said to ‘have gone mad’ or is ‘out of his wits’.
Usually, these two similar sounding terms are mistakenly or loosely inter-changed to describe a set of different mental conditions such as ‘elderly demented people’ when actually they are not demented but suffering from dementia. Perhaps it would be apt to describe the evil genius and behaviour of Adolf Hitler as demented, rather than say he suffered from dementia.
IT COMES IN STAGES
As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, dementia is progressive. It doesn’t happen to you overnight and find you waking up from sleep the next morning not knowing exactly just who you are or where you are anymore. That would likely be more of a case of amnesia, a condition in which memory is disturbed or suddenly lost.
Dementia is degenerative neurological disorder that interferes with normal brain function and makes it difficult for a person to remember, communicate or learn. Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, lewd body dementia and front-to-temporal dementia are the four most common types of dementia.
The symptoms of dementia vary from individual to individual. Although dementia is a progressive disease, it may take years for mild symptoms to become se-vere.
These are the warning signs and stages of this disease:
Early Dementia – One of the first signs of dementia is short-term memory loss. A person in the early stages of dementia will start mis-placing objects or forgetting a recent event or conversation. For example, a person might not remember where he wanted to go or where at she kept her purse. An afflicted person may also become easily disoriented in new surroundings, appear unwilling or unable to learn new skills and have trouble concentrating. At this stage, a person with early dementia can still function well in familiar surroundings such as in an office or home. Family and friends may not even recognise early dementia symptoms until it progresses to mild dementia.
Mild Dementia – When a person reaches this next stage, he or she experiences frequent short-term memory loss and shows obvious signs of disorientation in new surroundings, poor concentration, a short atten-tion span or be unable to learn new things. This person may need some help to adjust to a new place. Yet, a person with mild dementia can still live independently with minimal support from relatives.
Moderate Dementia – When reaching the stage of moderate dementia, a person may not be able to live alone anymore. Memory loss and disorientation would impair that person’s ability to function normally. The person suffering from moderate dementia will also begin to show signs of a personality change and may appear frequently irritable or unable to make a decision. Hallucinations and poor personal hygiene are also common effects. This is a very difficult stage for Whānau members and friends because the afflicted person is often oblivious to the health changes and resists help.
Severe Dementia – A person reaching the stage of severe dementia would, by that time and in all cases, need supervised care in an assisted living facility. He or she will experience both mental and physical health problems: be unable to care for his or her personal hygiene and ex-perience incontinence; be unaware of the present and/or not be able to focus on past events; experience a complete personality change; and, increasingly appear physically frail from muscle shrinkage, poor coor-dination and tremors. A person suffering from severe dementia will see his or her speech capacity significantly diminish or be lost. He or she might lose the ability to swallow and need to be fed intravenously. A person with severe dementia may also become bedridden.