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Dementia


Overview :

Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by gradual death of brain cells. The loss of cognitive abilities that occurs with dementia leads to impairments in memory, reasoning, planning, and behavior. While the overwhelming number of people with dementia are elderly, it is not an inevitable part of aging. Instead, dementia is caused by specific brain diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause, followed by vascular or multi-infarct dementia.

The prevalence of dementia has been difficult to determine, partly because of differences in definition among different studies, and partly because there is some normal decline in functional ability with age. Dementia affects 5-8% of all people between ages 65 and 74, and up to 20% of those between 75 and 84. Estimates for dementia in those 85 and over range from 30-47%. Between two and four million Americans have AD; that number is expected to grow to as many as 14 million by the middle of the twenty-first century as the population ages.

The cost of dementia can be considerable. While most people with dementia are retired and do not suffer income losses from their disease, the cost of care often is enormous. Financial burdens include lost wages for family caregivers, medical supplies and drugs, and home modifications to ensure safety. Nursing home care may cost several thousand dollars a month or more. The psychological cost is not as easily quantifiable but can be even more profound. The person with dementia loses control of many of the essential features of his life and personality, and loved ones lose a family member even as they continue to cope with the burdens of increasing dependence and unpredictability.




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