Dementia and its impact on daily life

Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday tasks.

Dementia statistics (Brayne, Stephan, & Matthews, 2011) show the most affected functions in dementia:

  • Thinking, reasoning & remembering

  • Behavioural activities

  • Visual perception

  • Language skills

  • Self-management

  • Problem-solving

  • Ability of focusing

  • Other personality changes.

Dementia can range in severity from mild symptoms to severe intensity.

According to NHS England, Dementia is not a disease itself. It's a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by different diseases, such as Alzheimer's. These symptoms vary according to the part of the brain that is damaged.

Dementia has several types:

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Vascular dementia

  • Dementia with Lewy body formation

  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

  • Delirium

  • Mixed dementia

Effects of dementia:

Dementia impacts the activities of daily life (ADLs), which make it difficult for individuals to complete simple daily life activities and can impact their quality of life. The simple activities can include bathing, feeding, cleaning, or doing laundry. It is essential to note that every individual does not have the same symptoms. Dementia has different stages, which can affect the functioning of a person.

Dementia is a collection of symptoms that affects the normal executive functioning of the body.

Dementia makes it challenging (Beerens et al., 2014) for individuals to carry out simple tasks such as feeding, bathing, or getting dressed. Our daily life activities have a series of movements that are difficult for people experiencing dementia to execute normally.

Effects on memory:

One of the most prominent symptoms of dementia is memory loss (Ebert & Kirch, 1998). Dementia tends to affect both types of memories; short term memory and long-term memory. Sometimes, people forget to perform a simple task like how to brush their teeth or how to clean their clothes properly. Daily support for people affected can help them lead a full and more independent life.

Attention and judgement:

Dementia causes a lack of signalling from the brain to the body. This lack of signalling leads to problems with attention, judgement, and decisions making. In simple terms, people affected will have difficulty in heating the room in cool winter days. Because of it, they will not be able to judge the weather and take action according to the need. This lack of attention and judgement can be dangerous for the person and their surroundings.

We can describe it; for instance, a person affected can forget to turn the flame or oven off for a longer time, which can put the whole house at risk of catching fire. The attention span of someone experiencing dementia is reduced.

Behavioural changes:

Dementia progression can directly affect the psychological state of a person (Robert et al., 2005). Dementia and depression can correlate directly. Family members of the person experiencing dementia can feel the change in the behaviour of the individual. In the later stages, these symptoms become clear as they can start interfering in daily life activities to a greater extent.

Visual-spatial changes:

Visual-spatial thinking is the person’s ability to perceive the information through vision in the environment to integrate it with other experiences and senses.

For example, if a person sees a cup on the table, it is their visual-spatial thinking that he sees a cup, and he knows it is over the table. But for people experiencing dementia, they can not formulate and process this information together. They can not decide whether the cup is over the table or table is over the cup. It is a dangerous situation that can cause many life-threatening accidents. That is why the people affected need to have assistance in their daily life activities. Several options for assistance are available either through the family members or through other services.

Advice to the carers or the family:

If you have anyone who is experiencing dementia, then you must:

  • Give time, offer support and be patient

  • Don't feel ashamed if you struggle. Ask for help from other relatives or any home health care service

  • Do not overburden yourself, take a break and look after yourself

  • Be mindful that the person affected may demonstrate different behaviours to what you are familiar with.

References:

NHS England Symptoms of dementia 12th June 2020

Beerens, H. C., Sutcliffe, C., Renom-Guiteras, A., Soto, M. E., Suhonen, R., Zabalegui, A., . . . Consortium, R. (2014). Quality of life and quality of care for people with dementia receiving long term institutional care or professional home care: the European RightTimePlaceCare study. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 15(1), 54-61.

Brayne, C., Stephan, B. C., & Matthews, F. E. (2011). A European perspective on population studies of dementia. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 7(1), 3-9.

Ebert, U., & Kirch, W. (1998). Scopolamine model of dementia: electroencephalogram findings and cognitive performance. European journal of clinical investigation, 28(11), 944-949.

Grossman, H., Bergmann, C., & Parker, S. (2006). Dementia: a brief review. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, New York, 73(7), 985-992.

Robert, P. H., Verhey, F. R., Byrne, E. J., Hurt, C., De Deyn, P. P., Nobili, F., . . . Tsolaki, M. (2005). Grouping for behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia: clinical and biological aspects. Consensus paper of the European Alzheimer disease consortium. European Psychiatry, 20(7), 490-496.