Dementia: A Disorder that Affects Cognitive Function

According to the National Institute of Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dementia is the “loss of cognitive functioning – thinking, remembering, and reason – and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.” Cognitive functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem solving, among others. The personalities of some people with dementia may change, while others may not be able to control their emotions. Dementia ranges in severity: During the early stages, dementia may affect a person’s functioning and have an impact on their daily activities such as driving or buying groceries. At the most severe stage, people with dementia must depend on their caregivers for basic activities of daily living.

There are various factors that may increase the risk for dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these factors include age, family history, poor heart health, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Older African Americans and Latinx are more likely to develop dementia than their white counterparts. Dementia is diagnosed when a healthcare provider performs tests on attention, memory, problem solving, and other cognitive abilities to see if there is a cause of concern. Underlying causes of dementia are determined by a physical exam, blood tests, and brain scans like a CT or MRI.

Although dementia is more common as people grow older, it is not a normal part of aging. However, some forms of dementia, such as frontotemporal disorders, are more common in middle-aged adults than they are in older adults. The most common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and mixed dementia. The treatment for dementia depends on the underlying cause. Neurodegenerative dementias have no cure. However, there are medications that may help protect the brain or manage symptoms such as anxiety or behavior changes.

NARIC’s information specialists searched REHABDATA and found nearly 2,000 documents on dementia related topics from the NIDILRR community and beyond, including the international research community. These documents include articles, factsheets and guides in English and Spanish. Contact NARIC’s information specialists if you would like to learn more about dementia or if you need dementia-related resources.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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