Natalia Thompson, Admissions Director for the Genesis Healthcare Breckensville facility in Hockessin Delaware, discussed the issues of dementia, which impact about one-third of families in the US. Dementia is a major and rapidly growing reason for the growth in long term care. Dementia is a slowly progressing "disease" that heavily impacts all the family members of those afflicted. Billions of hours are invested in providing care, which can be needed all day.  Care givers can become isolated and exhausted. Eventually the care giver needs help to meet the needs of the person with dementia. 
Dementia is associated with the shrinking of our brains as we age. The shrinking creates space within our skulls that is filled with increasing volumes of the normal fluids surrounding our brains. The net result is damage to those areas of our brain responsible for thinking, planning, and remembering. The hippocampus is also damaged, impairing our ability to create new memories. We don't know what causes dementia, but we do know there is a genetic component. There is no cure, just the ability to manage the symptoms more effectively. 
A major difficulty in diagnosing dementia is the symptoms are similar to those experienced when there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, or we are dehydrated, depressed, or experience a number of other conditions. The underlying causal condition can start 15 to 20 years before any symptoms are recognized. Even after symptoms start to appear we are often quite productive, further compounding diagnosis issues. 
Symptoms include: 
  • difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • time/place confusion
  • cannot understand visual images
  • misplace things and cannot retrace your steps to find the item
  • poor judgement
  • withdrawal from normal activities
  • changes in mood and behavior 
Dementia is often accelerated by accidents such as falls. The body shifts its use of nutrients to support repairing the injury, resulting in a more rapid advance in dementia. That is one reason for the apparent correlation between balance issues and dementia. Basic physical exercise ensures stronger muscles and better balance, helping prevent dementia by limiting falls in addition to improving blood flow to the brain. Thinking games such as crossword puzzles and sudoku help reduce the advancement of dementia. You really can directly exercise your brain.