Dementia is an umbrella term for a variety of cognitive changes associated with the progress of various medical disorders and diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular illness, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Cognitive changes in dementia manifest as impaired short-term and long-term memory, language problems, disorientation and confusion, decreased problem-solving skills, and even changes in demeanor and personality.
Causes of Cognitive Changes in Dementia
The causes of dementia-related cognitive changes are a result of brain damage caused by the medical illness or condition. Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, is caused by low levels of acetylcholine and glutamate neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in memory and mental capacity changes. Damage in other areas of brain tissue, caused by vascular illness, stroke, and other forms of brain damage, can also result in cognitive changes.
Treatment Options for Cognitive Changes in Dementia
In many cases, treatment is focused on the medical illness or condition that is causing the dementia. This can include medications, physical and occupational therapy, and lifestyle changes. Medications such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are sometimes prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, to help protect and restore levels of acetylcholine and glutamate in the brain. Other medications, such as antipsychotics, can also be used to help address symptoms of dementia.
Physical and occupational therapy can help to improve cognitive function and mobility, by focusing on physical and cognitive exercises. For example, spending time creating puzzles, or doing word searches, can help to strengthen problem-solving and thinking skills.
Lifestyle changes can also help to slow the progression of cognitive changes associated with dementia. This might include eating a healthy diet and ensuring adequate exercise levels. It’s also important to ensure that the individual stays socially and emotionally engaged, by providing opportunities for meaningful activities and conversations.
Cognitive Changes in Dementia and Mental Health
Cognitive changes in dementia can have a serious impact on an individual’s mental and emotional health. For example, sudden personality changes, disorientation and confusion, language problems, and impaired memory can lead to intense feelings of frustration, which can lead to mood problems such as depression and anxiety. It’s therefore important to ensure that the individual is also receiving adequate mental health care and support. This might include therapy and counseling, and/or medications such as antidepressants.
Cognitive changes related to dementia are a result of brain damage due to medical illness or conditions. Treatment of cognitive changes in dementia focuses on addressing the underlying medical cause. This may include medications, physical and occupational therapy, and lifestyle changes. Mental health care and support is also important, to ensure the individual is able to cope with the cognitive changes, and manage feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety.