What is Dementia?
Dementia is a cluster of symptoms that can cause memory loss and confusion and make the patient feel like they are in a vaudeville act.
"Who's on First" was a vaudeville comedy routine that even those who may not know who Abbott and Costello were may have at least heard of. The whole premises of the joke was that Abbott is identifying the names of a baseball team to his buddy Costello who is of course thinking that Abbott's answers are in fact questions. The name of the player on first base for example is "Who", so when Costello asks, "Who's on first?" Abbott replies, "Exactly- Who's on first."
As confusing as this vaudeville comedy act was- it is nothing compared to the real life act that emulates it called dementia. Dementia is often an aspect to Alzheimer's disorder and it can leave those who suffer from it just as confused in every day conversations as Costello appeared to be in his conversation with Abbott.
Dementia itself is not one disorder but a cluster of symptoms that affect the patient's ability to function in everyday activities including self-care and social skills. Patients who are diagnosed with this disorder are not necessarily being sentenced to a guarantee that they will develop Alzheimer's disorder but it can be an indicator of Alzheimer's disorder in some people.
Memory loss is usually the first symptom that people around the affected person will notice. It can start out with small things like not remembering something that the person should know such as their spouse's name and advance to more severe memory loss.
But memory lapses only are not the whole basis for a diagnosis. Patients will also experience some confusion and have a difficult time communicating. Conversations may take on a whole new Abbott and Costello feel and leave everyone involved confused.
More dementia information and other symptoms to diagnose dementia can be harder to separate from the disorders that these symptoms mimic including depression which can lead to socially isolating themselves from others. Patients can also experience mood swings, paranoia and personality changes that may not be noticed by a loved one right away if the affected person tries to hide the problem or isolates themselves and does not have close contact with people who can notice changes in behavior right away.
Caught early, with dementia information, there is hope but not a cure. Doctors view an early catch of these symptoms as the best solution to planning for an uncertain future and to ensure that when the disorder does advance the patient's wishes will already be known. An early catch is also the best way to begin early treatment options that may help to keep the dementia from getting worse and to catch other symptoms that can be treated with medication.
If your last conversation with your older relative or friend left you feeling like you were just in an Abbott and Costello vaudeville act, it may be time to gather some dementia information and to urge your loved one to see a doctor for a complete physical and rule out other possible causes of their symptoms and begin looking at what short term and long term treatment options are available.
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Written by: Alfred Ardis