It is unsurprising for elderly folks to start experiencing memory loss and poor retention capacity. While a lot of individuals tend to associate this with age, millions of younger adults around the world are beginning to experience this same issue. Most of the time, this is characterized by their inability to retain information, constant request for the repetition of a statement, and their failure to remember things in general.
Two of the major excuses usually made are the excuses of either being too stressed out or a lack of good diet, however, according to medical practitioners, this may occur as a result of the individual suffering from early onset of Dementia or Cognitive Decline.
What is Dementia and Cognitive Decline?
According to Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia is a “set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulty with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia, they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour.”
Just like Dementia, Cognitive Decline medically referred to as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), results in a gradual but noticeable loss of cognitive skills which spans from memory and analytical skill loss. It is important to note that an individual experiencing MCI is at the risk of experiencing Alzheimer or other forms of severe dementia.
Statistical Facts Associated with Dementia
- 23% of people identify dementia as caused by brain disease or degeneration, and 46% identified to it as a loss of memory.
- Globally, the number of people living with dementia will increase from 50 million to 152 million by 2050.
- Today, ¼ of hospital beds are occupied by people living with dementia who are over 65 years.
- It is estimated that in 2015, dementia cost the global economy over $817.9 and it’s expected to rise to $1 trillion by the end of 2018.
According to reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Dementia Statistics, over 50 million people globally are currently suffering from dementia-related illness. Also, it is important to note that while the disorder known as Dementia is quite familiar with older folks, it is important to note that is it is not a must-have experience (i.e., it is not a normal part of the aging process).
Symptoms Associated With Dementia And Cognitive Decline
While Dementia or Cognitive Decline consist of a range of symptoms that reduces the effectiveness of the brain or cognitive aspect of the human body. These symptoms usually appear gradually. Some of the symptoms include;
- Agitation and Depression
- Apathy, Delusions, and Hallucination
- Sleep Impairment
These symptoms can develop gradually into syndromes which results in adverse consequences in the lives of suffering patients. These symptoms can cause a sufferer to lose focus, disrupt performance in daily activities, affect his/her quality of life, lead to depression, and result in early institutionalization. According to several medical research studies, it has been discovered that these symptoms are commonly experienced by 50%-80% of individuals experiencing dementia or cognitive decline.
Most of the time, patients usually experience a stage known as “subjective cognitive decline” which is regarded as a stage whereby the patient notices the loss of cognitive skills such as learning/remembering words, names of people and items, and poor memory retention capacity. While the severity associated with the occurrence of this disorder may be subjective to the occupation or work engaged in by the sufferer, it is advisable to seek medical help at first notice.
Which Doctor Should You See When You Notice Cognitive Decline & Dementia Symptoms
Dementia and Cognitive Decline requires special medical attention and not all doctors are specialised in handling such cases. Most individuals experiencing a decline in their health tend to have their first medical consultation with their Primary Care Physician popularly known as Generalist. Primary Care Physicians are trained to handle common medical conditions.
Most of the time, Primary Care Physicians will propose or carry out an initial assessment or full evaluation with the aim of diagnosing the level and type of dementia. In cases where the level or type of Dementia or Cognitive decline is severe, PCP will recommend or refer patients to a Specialist for a more specialized Dementia assessment or evaluation. It is advisable to share your experiences, such as, the symptoms one is experiencing to assist your PCP to pinpoint the level of dementia accurately.
When it comes to handling Dementia or Cognitive Decline disorders, apart from the Primary Care Physicians, there is Specialist that is specialized in handling Dementia and Cognitive related disorders. One of such Doctors are the Geriatricians which are Primary Care Physicians but are trained in the Geriatrics (medical care for health conditions common among older people).
Also, individuals can also visit a Geriatric Psychiatrist who is trained in handling mental health and its effect on aging. They are important because they help to evaluate the patient to rule out other cause of cognitive skill loss, such as depression. Patients can also visit or be referred by their PCP to a Neurologist.
Diagnostic Process In Evaluating Dementia Or Cognitive Decline
During a diagnostic process, which may be a series of sessions and tests, your doctor will properly and accurately identify the cause of memory loss. In evaluating prospective dementia symptoms or a dementia patient, several steps are followed such as;
- Medical History: This will cover your past and medical issues, medications, family medical history and diet.
- Physical Exam: An examining of your blood pressure, pulse, and the temperature of the patient. It can also cover a general physical test.
- Mental Cognitive Test: A simple but focused evaluation of the memory, thinking and simple problem-solving abilities
Sometimes, your PCP may require you to undergo laboratory tests and/or Brain Imaging to pinpoint the leading cause of the Dementia or Cognitive Decline.
With the increase in the number of people experiencing Dementia and Cognitive Decline in the world, it is important for individuals around the globe to visit their PCP early during the detection phase in order to handle Dementia medically. With over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer related diseases, prompt medical intervention is the key to controlling dementia or cognitive decline disorder. It is important to note that while certain medical treatment or medication may offer temporary relief from Dementia, there is no permanent cure or solution to it, as of today.