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Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by diseases. These symptoms may often include:
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s
disease followed by Vascular dementia. There are lots of different types of dementia. It
is a progressive disease. Everyone experiences dementia differently so
it can vary greatly from person to person depending on the cause of the
dementia, their general health and individual circumstances. If you are concerned about your memory or of someone you know please contact your GP.
It is possible to live well with dementia.
This model describes the two fundamental types of memory represented by bookcases holding memories represented as individual books:
These memories are usually attached to all experiences we
have as we perceive the world by what we can understand.
The Hippocampus, the factual memory system, is the first to be damaged by dementia and the one that is damaged the most. It is represented by a tall thin bookcase, which is unstable if pushed by a force (Dementia). The memories themselves are represented by books sitting within the bookcase, with the most recent being at the top.
The Amaydala is represented by a solid, sturdy bookcase that will resist the force of dementia for much longer. This usually means someone with dementia will retain their emotions attached to experiences much longer.
Over time dementia will cause the bookcase (Hippocampus) to wobble
resulting in the loss of books which are representing memories and
skills that a person has.
The books will fall from the top shelf first meaning that their most recent memories and skills will be forgotten. This can often include what the person has just done, what they have just said or where they have just been. Also their ability to understand and reason will be affected by dementia.
The Hippocampus will continually be damaged throughout the
condition, losing more and more memories as it continues. This will result in
more and more confusion over time.
The emotional memories held by the Amygdala usually remain intact for much longer which can cause a transition in how the person perceives the world. Instead of having their factual memory to make sense of their world they will be left with the emotions tied to experiences they have had. Therefore the person may not remember who someone is but they may remember how that person made them feel. Someone who made them happy in their life could create a feeling of comfort and security for them but they may not remember who they are.
In the later stages of the disease
the Hippocampus bookcase will have lost many shelves of books. This may
leave the person with dementia believing they are much younger than they
are and not recognising family members.
The Amygdala bookcase will also of been damaged at this stage which will reduce their emotional memory to a lesser extent.
This can mean it is hard for people to understand their actions as a healthy brain interprets situations with both types of memory systems, coming to a logical conclusion. Therefore it is important to remember to separate logic out of the equation when trying to understand a person with dementia.