What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive, chronic dysfunction of the brain that leads to a decline in cognitive capacity. As time passes, this disorder can impact the mental function of memory, learning and judgement. As a result, it can impact how an individual executes even the most basic of daily activities. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common deviation of dementia, affecting 5.1 million Americans, many of whom are over 65.

Causes of Dementia

Unfortunately, the cause of Dementia (and similar disorders) is unknown. However, many experts believe that in a small percentage of cases, dementia is hereditary. Basically, with very few dementia patients, their family history of the disorder may indicate the root cause.

But in the vast majority of cases, patients do not inherit dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the presence of either of these in your family does not mean you’ll inherit the disease, as well.

Symptoms of Dementia

As an individual ages with Alzheimer’s, they develop plaques within the Central Nervous System. Most know these as the brain and the brainstem. Additionally, the brain experiences diminished blood flow and loss of cholinergic activity to the brain. This translates into memory loss (short-term in particular), disorientation, language deficits and motor deficits as the disease progresses. Movement disorders that are often times associated with dementia may include Parkinson’s Disease as well as Huntington’s Chorea.

 

How Can Physical Therapy Help Dementia

Due to the progressive nature of the disease, early intervention is critical to maintain function. Intervening with Physical Therapy has proven to slow the progression of the disease through movement. Upon arrival, one of our licensed Physical Therapists will create an exercise program tailored to you or your loved one’s needs. They will focus on treatment to improve balance, endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and most importantly encourage blood flow to the brain (which can slow memory loss). By improving mobility and strength, the risk for falls can be greatly diminished, and independence can be maintained through activities of daily living in a safe environment.