Dementia

Dementia is a condition that refers to a gradual decline in the mental capacity of an individual that causes significant disruptions to his or her daily life. The onset of dementia is usually characterized by memory loss, decreased thinking skills, language, judgment and behaviour.


The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which is a degenerative brain disease,resulting in a slow but progressively deteriorating course. The other type of dementia is vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, and is the second most common dementia type.


When the symptoms of dementia are identified and treatment is started early, the prognosis is generally better. Dementia usually occurs in older age, although it can occur in people younger than 60 year old as well. About 20,000 Singaporeans suffer from Dementia (AsiaOne, "Tackling Singapore's Dementia Epidemic").

 

Causes of Dementia

Dementia develops when regions of the brain that are involved with learning, memory, decision making, reasoning and language are affected. The damage in the brain cells affects their ability to communicate with each other and therefore behavior and feelings can be affected. Some other possible causes of dementia could be toxic reactions such as excessive alcohol or drug use, nutritional deficiencies and other neurological disorders.


Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Some of the main signs and symptoms of dementia are memory loss (that affects day-to-day activities), withdrawal from social situations, misplacing things, changes in personality, changes in mood/behaviour, poor/decreased judgment, low visual perception and communication problems. Dementia usually develops as forgetfulness. Dementia can also be progressive, i.e. the symptoms start slowly but increasingly get worse. Professional evaluation by a skilled mental health professional can detect and determine the cause and can enable the individual to get maximum benefit from treatment.


 
Treatment for Dementia

Treatment for dementia largely depends on its cause. In case of most progressive dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is no treatment that can stop it, but certain forms of drug treatment can significantly slow the process down.


There are also other forms of therapy that may be suggested to aid the individual suffering from dementia such as:

  • Intellectually stimulating exercises
  • Regular physical exercise (e.g. walking)
  • Medication catered towards dementia (to improve symptoms and slow down progression)

Dementia can be challenging to live with, for both the sufferers and those around them. Due to dementia, sufferers are often unaware of their actions, and due to their worsened judgement, they are inclined to make poorly thought out decisions.


Risk factors and prevention of dementia

Studies show that a healthy and active lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing certain types of dementia. It is important to take good care of one’s body both physically and mentally. Taking care to maintain blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol will help keep your heart healthy and provide sufficient circulation to the brain. One must also eat healthily and stay within the ideal weight range and Body Mass Index (BMI). Smoking and drug and alcohol abuse must be avoided to prevent heart disease as it may increase the risk of dementia.

A healthy lifestyle can play a huge role in preventing dementia. It is important for individuals to have a fulfilling social life, stay mentally engaged in doing what they enjoy, have a healthy diet as well as get the right amount of exercise and activity.
 

 

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Department of Psychological Medicine provides a comprehensive treatment and management for Dementia. We have a dedicated multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists and psychologists that can provide assessment and treatment for your psychological and emotional distress. We also work closely with the Department of Geriatric Medicine to cater to your medical needs. 

 

It is never too late to seek help. If you would like to obtain an assessment, please obtain a referral from your doctor or call 65558828 for an appointment.