What Is Dementia?

Dementia refers to any condition affecting memory and thinking (cognition) that is beyond what would be expected from normal aging. Indeed, memory and cognition deteriorate in those with dementia to an extent that they need help with day-to-day activities. Dementia symptoms are most often irreversible as brain cells degenerate.

Prevention and treatment of dementia depend on the cause. Although most cases of dementia are not curable, there are steps patients can take to delay symptoms or slow the disease’s progress. A healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of mental decline and dementia symptoms.

Steps you can take that might delay onset or reduce symptoms of dementia:

  • Stay physically, mentally and socially active
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet and get enough vitamins
  • Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight
  • Get enough good sleep

Dementia is a complex disease that is more than occasional age-related forgetfulness. The specialists at Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center have the experience and expertise to precisely diagnose dementia and its various types. Our providers are at the leading edge of advances in this rapidly developing field to help slow the progress and manage dementia symptoms.

More patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana trust Norton Neuroscience Institute with their neurological care than any other provider in the area. Patients find a comprehensive range of board-certified specialists who provide a diversity of viewpoints to develop a customized care plan for each patient.

The Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center can support patients and caregivers through the progression of dementia, with resources to help caregivers through this time and transition from home care to specialized care if necessary.

Signs of Dementia

Dementia symptoms vary, and many worsen over time. In general, symptoms include:

  • Memory loss, especially short-term memory
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Difficulty communicating verbally
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Personality changes, including out-of-character behaviors, paranoia and agitation
  • Anxiety or depression

Types of Dementia

There are four most common types of dementia. Research shows that many cases of dementia involve a combination of these individual conditions.

  • Alzheimer’s disease – The most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s starts as memory loss and, as the brain deteriorates, can lead to an inability to communicate and can limit the patient’s ability to carry out daily activities.
  • Vascular dementia – This hard-to-diagnose dementia is related to diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It can be can be caused by strokes, but often develops gradually and can be difficult to trace back to a single stroke or series of strokes.
  • Lewy body dementia – Signs are similar to Alzheimer’s, but often with vivid hallucinations.
  • Frontotemporal dementia – This type of dementia is caused by shrinking of the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes. The result can take the form of behavioral changes, difficulty using language properly or an inability to understand words and recognize faces.

Early Onset Dementia

Most cases of dementia before age 65 are Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes tend to be vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, head injury, alcohol use or a metabolic disorder.

Many with early onset Alzheimer’s are in their 50’s or early 60’s. Because Alzheimer’s is associated with older individuals, the condition is sometimes misdiagnosed. A comprehensive exam by a specialist in memory conditions is important to getting an accurate diagnosis.

Reversible Memory Loss

Not all memory loss is related to progressive loss of brain function. Some causes of memory loss can be reversed.

Chronic alcoholism can impair cognition and memory. Alcohol can interact with medications to cause memory loss.

Some medications or combinations of medication can cause confusion or memory loss.

If you’re feeling stress or anxiety or are depressed, you can become forgetful and have difficulty concentrating to the extent it affects your daily activities.

A vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in older people, can cause difficulties with memory.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause forgetfulness or cognition difficulty.

A tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory issues.

Care That’s Focused on You

It’s part of Norton Neuroscience Institute’s goal to care for the whole person, not just the condition.

  • Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers offer ways to improve your access to care, provide valuable information on managing your disease and address your quality of life issues. The Norton Healthcare Foundation funds this important service, so patients don’t need to pay.
  • Dedicated patient navigators can help schedule follow-up appointments, coordinate prescription assistance, create customized diet plans and provide guidance on disability benefits, housing, financial and employment concerns and more.
  • Patients can access support groups, exercise classes and other educational events to connect with others and learn how to make the most of life while managing a neurological condition. 
  • Access an on-demand video library of educational content across a variety of condition related topics is available.
  • We want to help prevent illness. Get help quitting smoking and learn the signs of stroke.
  • Communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions and more anytime from a computer or mobile device with a free Norton MyChart account.

A Louisville Leader in Neurological Care

More patients from Louisville and Southern Indiana seek their neurology and neurosurgery care from Norton Neuroscience Institute’s nationally recognized specialists than any other providers in the area.

Your Norton Neuroscience Institute medical provider has the expertise, experience, diagnostic tools and sophisticated treatments to provide care tailored to your needs.

  • More than 75 medical, surgical and research specialists are dedicated to providing innovative care to those with brain, spine and nervous system conditions.
  • Advanced, minimally invasive neurosurgery equipment can speed your recovery and minimize pain.
  • Multidisciplinary clinics provide easy access to care in one convenient appointment for your neurological condition, with specialists in oncology, cardiology, orthopedics and behavioral health.
  • Norton Healthcare’s four adult-service hospitals in Louisville are certified by DNV, recognizing excellence and expertise in stroke care.
    • Norton Brownsboro Hospital is recognized as a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
    • Norton Audubon Hospital and Norton Hospital are Primary Stroke Centers.
    • Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital is an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital.
  • The American Heart Association Get With the Guidelines stroke care program has recognized all four of Norton Healthcare’s adult service-hospitals in Louisville for exceeding national averages in getting patients in the door and administering lifesaving treatment to restore blood flow to the brain.
  • Norton Neuroscience Institute’s multiple sclerosis (MS) program has been designated a Center for Comprehensive MS Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  • The National Association of Epilepsy Centers has recognized Norton Neuroscience Institute as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, providing the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.
  • Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center navigators help educate patients and their families about new diagnoses, available treatments and ways to manage their disease.
  • We are listed by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of 100 great neurosurgery and spine programs.

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