The Truth About Dementia

You probably understand that heart disease is a disease of the heart. There is something physically wrong, caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle, that damages a person’s heart and causes it to become unhealthy.

Like heart disease, dementia is also a degenerative disease. Yet, most people believe that dementia is a mental illness, like depression or anxiety. This is a common misconception, and researchers are discovering more and more how very wrong it is. Dementia is actually a disease of the brain.

Thanks to modern imaging technology, we can clearly see structural abnormalities in the brain. In the case of dementia, researchers have even been able to track the progression of the disease through a series of scans.

When a person with dementia exhibits symptoms, such as forgetfulness and confusion, you are seeing the results of changes in brain function.

Imagine that you have a piece of yarn, and you want to wind it into a ball. As you do this, you start with a very small ball that gradually becomes larger. Now picture that small, initial ball of yarn as the basic functions you learned when you were a small child. You learned how to eat, communicate through crying, and so on. Later we learn to walk, smile, feed ourselves, go to the bathroom, talk, and gradually develop more complex skills.

The progression of dementia is like unwinding that ball of yarn. At first the patient loses more complex skills, but as the disease progresses they lose more basic, life-sustaining abilities.

That idea, and more, is explained in the brief video below.

Dementia: The Big Misconception from Hospice of the Valleys on Vimeo.

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