Dementia is not a specific or single disease. Instead, it is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions. Such an impairment interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is projected that by 2060, nearly 14 million Americans – mostly 65 and over – will be living with this illness.


Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. Many older adults – even some with bad habits like smoking or drinking to excess – never develop dementia.

Normal age-related memory changes may include:

      • Occasionally misplacing car keys
      • Struggling to find a word but remembering it later
      • Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
      • Forgetting the most recent events

Normally, knowledge and experiences built over years, such as old memories and language, remain intact, even with advancing years

Warning signs that could be signs and symptoms of dementia include:

      • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
      • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
      • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
      • Forgetting recent memories, even when older ones seem to remain fresh
      • Not being able to complete familiar tasks independently

Screening & Diagnosing Dementia

There is no single test for dementia.

To diagnose it, your doctor will:

• Do a physical exam
• Ask questions about recent and past illnesses and life events. The doctor will want to talk to a close family member to check details.
• Ask you to do some simple things that test your memory and other mental skills. Your doctor may ask you what day and year it is, repeat a series of words, or draw a clock face.

The doctor may do tests to look for a cause that can be treated. For example, you might have blood tests to check your thyroid or to look for an infection. You might also have a test that shows a picture of your brain, like an MRI or a CT scan. These tests can help your doctor find a tumor or brain injury.

Treating Dementia

While there is no cure for dementia, there are medicines that can slow its progression.

As dementia worsens, it is normal to feel depressed or angry. An active social life, counseling, and sometimes medicine may help with changing emotions.

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