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What is Dementia?

By Swathi Ravi Shankar

Dementia generally refers to a condition where a person has lost their memory, language, problem solving skills and other abilities that interfere with their everyday life. Unlike what most people believe, dementia is not a certain disease; rather, it is a group of diseases that affect the brain. Dementia primarily affects people's decision-making abilities, judgments, and verbal communication. Certain types of dementia can be cured, whereas some cannot. For instance, Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that is incurable. In 2020, it was estimated that 50 million were diagnosed with dementia. The number of cases is increasing by around 10 million every year [1]. It is also estimated that nearly 10% of individuals develop a type of dementia due to aging [2]. In 2020, it was reported that dementia was listed as one of the top ten causes of death worldwide [3].

As more people experience a longer life expectancy, dementia is becoming more common. There are four different stages in dementia which track a patient's progress. The pre-dementia stages are preclinical, where the suspicion of dementia slowly begins to grow. The next stage is the early stage, where the symptoms of dementia begin to become noticeable to others. A Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is conducted to see if the person has dementia. MMSE scores are set at 24 to 30 for a normal cognitive rating, and lower scores reflect the severity of symptoms. The middle stages are when the individual's conditions begin to grow worse. The person’s MMSE scores will be between 6-17. The final stage is when the patient needs twenty-four-hour care from others to ensure that they are safe. The patient will stop engaging in primary skills, such as going to the washroom or remembering how to return home [4]. Dementia is a difficult condition for people and their loved ones to go through, but there will hopefully come a day where scientists have developed treatments for it.


[1] World Health Organization. (n.d.). Dementia. World Health Organization.

[2] Larson, E. B., Yaffe, K., & Langa, K. M. (2013, December 12). New insights into the dementia epidemic. The New England journal of medicine.

[3] GBD 2016 Dementia Collaborators. (2019, January). Global, regional, and national burden of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. Neurology.

[4] B;, S. (n.d.). Assessment scales in dementia. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders.

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