Dementia is a serious loss of global cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It may be stable or unchanging, the result of a unique global brain injury, or progressive, resulting in long-term decline due to damage or disease in the body. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population (about 5% of those over 65 are said to be involved) It can occur before the age of 65, in which case it is termed “early onset dementia”.
Dementia is not a single disease, but a non-specific syndrome (i.e., set of signs and symptoms). Affected cognitive areas can be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Normally, symptoms must be present for at least six months to support a diagnosis. Cognitive dysfunction of shorter duration is called delirium.
Especially in later stages of the condition, patients may be disoriented in time (not knowing the day, week, or even year), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they and/or others around them are).
Dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible, depending upon the underlying cause of the disease.
For information about coping with Dementia from ‘ Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia” in the British Isles, go to their site at http://www.repod.org.uk/