Understanding the Difference Between Dementia and Forgetfulness
Everyone forgets things at times, from where they left their keys to someone’s name or their birthday. Unfortunately, these moments tend to increase as we age. It is not always a significant problem, as a long life means there are many more things to recall. However, repeated loss of memory can be a sign of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to statistics, there were around 850,000 people suffering from dementia throughout the UK in 2016. When you include those providing dementia care, the number of people affected rises to about 1.5 million. It is estimated that of those suffering from dementia in the UK, some 38 per cent are male and 68 per cent are female. Around 1.3 per cent of the population in total are affected, and it is thought that by 2050, more than two million Britons could be suffering from some form of dementia and may need residential care. While the vast proportion of sufferers are aged over 65, there are still some 40,000 dementia sufferers in the UK aged under 65.
Dementia can be a serious health risk and is the number one cause of death for British women, accounting for more than 13 per cent of deaths. Worldwide, there are more than 45 million people suffering from dementia.
A Number of Causes and Effects
Dementia can be caused by a range of different factors, and dementia itself is a term that refers to symptoms such as confusion, changes in personality and loss of memory. Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause, but there are other types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia (a less common type where parts of the brain are damaged), vascular dementia (more common and caused by blood supply to the brain being compromised – by a stroke, for example) and Lewy body dementia (a result of abnormal protein deposits – the Lewy bodies – causing disruption in brain function).
Senior Moments or Something More Serious?
So how can you distinguish between benign forgetfulness and a more serious condition? Dementia generally results in forgetting things, but just forgetting things does not mean that someone has dementia. Dementia can result in a number of other symptoms too. These can include difficulty with communicating, food cravings and general confusion. Dementia could also bring on feelings of disorientation, changed personality or behaviour, hallucinating or having delusions. There could also be problems with estimating distances or speeds.
There can be warning signs of dementia more than a decade before it becomes severe. An interim stage is called mild cognitive impairment, where memory loss becomes more pronounced. If someone you love is exhibiting signs of confusion, such as getting lost near their home, it may be time to investigate dementia care for them.
When the Condition Progresses
If forgetfulness is becoming worrisome, evaluation and diagnosis are essential. If it is dementia, then a physician should help with assessing which therapies or treatments may be helpful. Depending on the severity of symptoms, dementia care or even residential care may be needed. This can take many forms, from home visits to attending a day centre or even a care facility. Contributions towards care may be paid for by the local authority, but self-funded options give the individual more choice.