Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life (“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease,” 2020). Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for the majority of all diagnosed cases (“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease,” 2020).
Several factors determine the risk of developing dementia, including (“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease,” 2020):
- Age: Among adults aged 65 years and older, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years.
- Gender: More women than men have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
- Family History: People with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease are generally considered to be at greater risk of developing the disease.
Dementia affects an individual’s health, quality of life, and ability to live independently. It can also diminish a person’s ability to effectively (“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease,” 2020):
- Manage medications and medical conditions
- Make financial decisions
- Drive a car or use appliances and tools safely
- Avoid physical injury
- Maintain social relationships
- Carry out activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing
Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of disability in the United States. Older adults with dementia are 3 times more likely to have preventable hospitalizations (“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease,” 2020). As their dementia worsens, people need more medical and support services and, oftentimes, long-term care. These challenges can exact an emotional, physical, and financial toll on their families, caregivers, and society.
The Goal: Reduce the morbidity and costs associated with, and maintain or enhance the quality of life for, persons with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
What you can do:
- Improving the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Reducing the severity of cognitive and behavioral symptoms through medical management
- Decrease your risk
- Encouraging healthy behaviors to reduce the risk of co-occurring conditions, such as Bewick, T. (2016):
- meaningful activity and cognitive stimulation
- maintain independence
Lack of diagnosis of dementia can seriously reduce a person’s access to available treatments and valuable information. Active medical management, information and support, and coordination of medical and community services have been shown to improve the quality and outcomes of care for people with dementia.
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/
National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/
Bewick, T. (2016). Nurses can make a difference: caring for those living with dementia. Retrieved August 9, 2020, from https://journalofdementiacare.com/nurses-can-make-a-difference-caring-for-those-living-with-dementia/
“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease.” (2020). Retrieved August 9, 2020, from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/dementias-including-alzheimers-disease