DEFINITION--Mental impairment caused by a variety of diseases that produce brain
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Brain.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Adults over 60.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Forgetfulness, especially of recent events.
- Unpredictable, sometimes violent, behavior.
- Loss of interest in normal activities.
- Disorientation, especially at night.
- Poor personal hygiene and appearance.
- Depression, sleep disturbances.
- Poor judgment.
- Fecal incontinence (late).
RISK INCREASES WITH
- High blood pressure or atherosclerotic disease.
- Adults over 60.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Obtain early medical treatment for underlying causes.
- Protect yourself from head injury. Wear seat belts in vehicles. Wear protective head
gear for riding bicycles, motorcycles and participating in contact sports.
- To prevent atherosclerosis, don't smoke, eat a diet low in fat (see Low-fat Diet in
Appendix), exercise regularly and reduce stress whenever possible.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies, EEG (See Glossary); x-rays
of the head (to rule out potentially reversible causes).
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Doctor's treatment.
- Home care if symptoms are mild to moderate.
- Nursing-home care, if the disorder is too advanced for home care.
- Psychotherapy or counseling for family members.
- Occupational therapy.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS--Infections, constipation, falls and injuries, and poor
nutrition. These occur because the ill person cannot care for himself or herself.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Primary dementia is currently considered incurable and
progressive. Medicine may help a few to keep the condition from worsening, but it cannot
restore lost brain function.
How To Treat
GENERAL MEASURES----Family members can help:
- Notice early behavior changes and seek prompt medical care.
- Provide simple reminders, such as a clock, daily calendar or name tag. Help the person
with their personal hygiene.
- Minimize changes in daily routine and environment.
- Encourage social activities and contacts. Consider adult day care.
- Treat the person with respect and kindness.
- Provide a protected, non-judgmental environment when the patient cannot provide
self-care. When home care is no longer possible, find a good extended-care facility.
- Visit the patient often--even if he or she doesn't seem to recognize you.
- See Resources for Additional Information.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe medication appropriate to treat the
underlying condition or drugs to treat the behavioral symptoms if other treatment has
ACTIVITY--Encourage as much activity as possible. Caregivers should
accident-proof the home.
DIET--Provide a well-balanced diet.
Call Your Doctor If