Dementia is a decline in mental abilities or cognitive functions such as memory, language, reasoning, planning, recognising, or identifying people or objects. This decline is beyond what might be expected from normal aging. These symptoms eventually impair the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving, household chores, and even personal care such as bathing, dressing, and feeding.
Some causes of dementia are treatable. These include, among others: head injury, brain tumours, infections (such as meningitis, HIV / AIDS, or syphilis), simple and normal pressure hydrocephalus (when the fluid in which the brain floats is collecting outside or in the cavities of the brain, compressing it from outside), hormone disorders (that is, disorders of hormone-secreting and hormone-regulating organs such as the thyroid gland), metabolic disorders (such as diseases of the liver, pancreas, or kidneys that disrupt the balances of chemicals in the blood), hypoxia (poor oxygenation of the blood), nutritional (vitamin) deficiencies, drug abuse, or chronic alcoholism.
Treatment of dementia begins with treatment of the underlying disease, where possible. The underlying causes of nutritional, hormonal, tumour-caused or drug-related dementias may be reversible to some extent. For many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, there is no cure. However, improvement of cognitive and behavioural symptoms can be achieved through a combination of appropriate medications and psychotherapy. The goal of treatment is to slowdown the progression of dementia-related impairments and to control behavioural symptoms, which may be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, environmental modifications, and medication.
Psychotherapy, in particular behavioural approaches, can be used to reduce the frequency or severity of problematic behaviours, such as aggression or socially inappropriate conduct. Identifying what might be triggering a problematic behaviour and then devising an intervention that either changes the person’s environment or the caregiver’s reaction to the behaviour can be effective. Other strategies may include breaking down complex tasks, such as dressing, into simpler steps, or reducing the amount of activity in the environment to avoid confusion and agitation.