serious woman thinkingDementia encompasses multiple conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an individual’s cognitive and social abilities to the point independent living can be disrupted.

Although many associate memory loss with dementia in older adults, it’s not the definitive symptom. In fact, cognitive issues may indicate your loved one has another condition.

In general, dementia occurs as a result of damage to or loss of nerve cells. Depending on how the brain and its neurological connections are affected, the following symptoms can indicate the development of dementia:

  • Noticeable cognitive changes, including memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Changes in visual and spatial skills, leading one to easily get lost
  • Challenges with problem solving and organizing
  • Easily getting confused or acting disoriented
  • Changes in personality
  • Psychological changes, including depression, anxiety and paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation

Not every dementia patient displays all the above signs and, depending on the cause or source, the condition may be reversible. However, Alzheimer’s disease – one of the most common causes of dementia – is a progressive form that can be managed but not yet cured. Contrary to popular belief, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not an inevitable part of aging.

However, certain individuals may be more prone to developing this condition than others.

General Factors

Although early-onset Alzheimer’s exists, patients have a higher likelihood of developing dementia over the age of 65. In addition, individuals who have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s have a greater chance of developing these conditions with age.

Health Conditions

Research has found that individuals living with one or more of the following conditions are more likely to develop dementia later on:

  • Huntington’s Disease: This genetic condition affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Patients in their 30s and 40s show a more noticeable progression that affects cognitive functioning.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Individuals who’ve experienced repeat head trauma are more likely to display symptoms like memory loss, aggression and speech delays with age.
  • Parkinson’s Disease: Patients who develop this neurological condition also tend to show symptoms of dementia as they age.
  • Infection and Immune Disorders: When the body starts attacking nerve cells to fight off an infection, a patient may begin to show dementia-like symptoms.
  • Metabolic Issues & Nutritional Deficiencies: If the body has difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals like B-12, the brain may not be getting the nutrients it needs.
  • Anoxia or Hypoxia: When organs are not getting enough oxygen, anoxia occurs and may be accompanied by dementia symptoms. The condition may emerge as a result of a heart attack, carbon monoxide exposure, sleep apnea or asthma.
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Older patients with this condition have higher odds of developing Alzheimer’s as they age.
  • Cardiovascular Conditions: Patients with high blood pressure, cholesterol, atherosclerosis or obesity are more likely to develop dementia due to how these conditions affect the delivery of blood to the brain.
  • Plasma Homocysteine: A higher level of amino acid homocysteine in the blood can lead to Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia and other cognitive impairments.
  • Diabetes: As diabetes can contribute to cardiovascular issues, patients who mismanage this condition may experience dementia symptoms down the line.

Other Factors

Aside from other medical conditions, dementia symptoms may arise as a result of:

  • Medication side effects
  • Head injuries leading to a subdural hematoma
  • Smoking or heavy alcohol use
  • Depression and social isolation
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise
  • Midlife obesity
  • Being underweight and physically frail
  • Sleep issues

With staff trained under the Dementia Care Professionals of America®, West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation Center offers dedicated dementia and Alzheimer’s care for your loved one. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.