Dementia introduction

Dementia introduction

Dementia is an overall term for abnormal chronic frailty caused by different diseases or damage of the brain. Over 100 forms of dementia exists, the boundaries between causes are indistinct, and mixed forms often co-exist. Generally, about 60% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, and 20% have vascular dementia. People with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias experience a range of symptoms. However, every individual is unique. The presence and severity of these symptoms vary greatly from person to person and can also change from day to day. Most symptoms change gradually over the progression of the disease.

Dementia is a progressive disease where the person affected will in most cases gradually become less independent. Changes in the brain caused by dementia trigger a decline in cognitive abilities, severe enough to affect daily life and independence. The changes also impair behavior, feelings and relationships.  

Treatment of dementia depends on the cause of dementia. There is no cure to treat dementia, but there are treatment options that temporarily can improve the symptoms of dementia. In addition, non-drug therapies can alleviate symptoms of dementia, many of which are presented in the DemiCare-app. For instance, educating caregivers about dementia have shown impact on symptoms of dementia for the person affected.  

As mentioned, dementia is different from person to person. However, three general stages are identified and usually referred to: mild, moderate and severe dementia.  

Mild dementia

In the early stage of dementia, a person can mostly function independently. However, the people closest to them might notice changes in memory and orientation, slowed down thought or movement or changes in personality.  
Your role as a caregiver is about finding a good balance between interdependence and independence. Your emotional support is important, talk to each other about expectations, questions and concerns, and spend time doing activities that are meaningful for both of you.  

Moderate dementia

Moderate dementia is typically the longest stage and can last for years. Symptoms will be more pronounced, and the person may have greater difficulty performing daily tasks. The person with dementia may still remember significant details about their life. At this stage, the dementia might cause the person to confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or act unexpectedly. The person might have difficulties to express thoughts and preform daily tasks.  
Your role as a caregiver in this stage requires flexibility and patience. Structure will become more important in this stage, and daily routines needs to be adapted.  

Severe dementia

In the final stage of the disease, dementia symptoms are severe. The person with dementia loses the ability to respond to the environment, carry on conversations and control movement. General communication becomes difficult, even though they might still say words or phrases. At this stage, the person needs round-the-clock care, and significant personality changes occur.  
Your role as a caregiver in the latest stages of the disease is on preserving quality of life and dignity. Some of the core of the person’s self may remain, despite of not being able to talk or express needs. There are different care options in this stage, and ideally, discussions about end-of-life care wishes should take place before severe dementia, when the person still can express their wishes and have capacity of making decisions about life-sustaining treatments.

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The DemiCare project has been funded by the Active and Assisted Living programme. AAL is a European programme funding innovation that keeps people connected, healthy, active and happy into their old age.

AAL supports the development of products and services that make a real difference to people’s lives - for those facing some of the challenges of ageing and for those who care for older people if they need help.

The project has an overall budget of 2.029.091,76 €, to which the AAL will contribute with 1.477.535,07 €