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Dementia causes memory loss and other thinking problems that make it hard for the person to remember important information, solve problems, or plan their day. Everyday tasks like getting dressed, taking medicine, and paying bills may be affected.
Most types of dementia get worse over time and do not have a cure. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
In most cases, dementia starts with memory loss. As time goes by, other signs and symptoms develop, including
By the final stages, people with dementia may not be able to feed themselves, walk alone, or speak clearly.
Dementia itself is not a disease. Different brain diseases cause dementia. Some of the conditions that can cause dementia include
Infections and reactions to medicine can cause symptoms that are like dementia. These symptoms may go away after treatment.
See a doctor if you have concerns about a loved one or about yourself. The doctor will run tests to see if there is another cause for the problems you’ve noticed. See an audiologist for hearing testing. Hearing problems can make a person seem confused. Hearing loss may also put a person at risk for dementia.
An SLP can test speech, language, and thinking skills. The SLP can also look at eating and swallowing functions, if those become a problem.
The goal of treatment is to maintain quality of life of the person with dementia for as long as possible.
Certain medicines can slow down dementia, but they do not make it go away. Treatment for memory and other thinking skills can help. This is true early on, and it also may help as the dementia gets worse.
An SLP can help a person with dementia stay as independent as possible. The SLP may work on attention, memory, problem solving, and higher-level thinking skills. Some strategies that the SLP may teach a person with dementia include
The SLP also can work with a person with dementia to make sure they can eat safely. This may include eating different types of foods or eating in different ways. Family members and caregivers can support the person with dementia to make sure they eat enough.
See ASHA information for professionals on the Practice Portal's Dementia page.
You can help a person with dementia by doing the following things:
Family members and other caregivers may want to join a support group. Support groups can offer ways to handle the stress of caring for someone with dementia. Adult day care centers or services can also be helpful. They can give the person with dementia good care while allowing family and caregivers to take some time for themselves.
Other resources on dementia are listed below. This list does not include every website on this topic. ASHA does not endorse the information on these sites.