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The Phenomena of Dementia

Updated: Dec 1, 2018

This is the first in a series on dementia. The purpose is to provide a better understanding of what dementia really is, how it may affect people suffering with the diseases that fall under the umbrella of dementia, and some tips on how we can help by being dementia-friendly through understanding and thoughtfulness...

Dementia, like many words in the English language, derives from the Latin de (depart) and mens (the mind). You may have wondered from where that opening phrase in many wills came, "...being of sound mind..."--it derived from the principle that those with dementia were "not of sound mind," mad, crazy, rabid, and other archaic terms. Today, we understand more and more not only the diseases that are called dementia but also how we may interact with those who have dementia in its various forms and the variation in effects on individuals. To be sure, even given the similarities between persons suffering from the same type of dementia, each person has their own progression of the disease, their own responses, and their own length of outcomes...if you know one person with dementia, you know exactly one person with dementia and their journey.

First and foremost: Dementia is NOT part of the normal aging process! That is the very first lesson and a foundational principle that may assist the reader in understanding the various stops along this journey...

As with most other diseases or disorders, dementia treatments have a more positive effect on life when discovered in a pre-dementia or early dementia stage. One of the ways the we may help one another is to understand the 10 primary signs that are relatively common across the dementia spectrum, as illustrated below.

Source: Alzheimer's Association

As you follow me on this journey of learning about dementia and how we can all be a part of helping those who suffer from these diseases, I will approach this series through a logical--funnel, if you will--model. Below is the schedule for how the various components of this dementia journey will unfold:

  • 11/26: What Dementia is and what it is not--facts and fallacies

  • 11/27: The broad categories that define dementia

  • 11/28: Exploring Alzheimer's Disease--the most common dementia

  • 11/29: Vascular Dementia--the heart and mind...and second most prevalent dementia

  • 11/30: Lewy Body Dementia--the dementia that took Robin Williams from us

  • 12/03: Frontotemporal Dementia--Language, behavior, and movement

  • 12/04: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease--the "mad cow" disease just for humans

  • 12/05: Huntington's Disease--genetic mutation with the power to strike at an early age

  • 12/06: Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus--fluid, motor function, speech, and thinking

  • 12/07: Parkinson's Disease--motor function to cognition and protein deposits

  • 12/10: Posterior Cortical Atrophy--the posterior brain, plaques, tangles, and vision

  • 12/11: The Stages of Dementia

  • 12/12: The challenges of treatment

  • 12/13: What can be done--today and in the future?

And now, are you ready to take this journey with me over the next couple weeks? If so,

Source: @justbedementiafriendly

climb aboard, leave your preconceived notions behind, open your mind to new possibilities, and come with me as we explore some of the mysteries of the human mind that science is now starting to understand, treat, and develop "someday" cures to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted with these diseases.

As we settle in before leaving on our journey tomorrow, I leave you with the story of an experience on the beach. A young man was sitting on a dune, looking out over a darkened beach. He watched, curiously, as an older man walked along the beach, bending over every few steps, and then throwing something into the water. After a while, the young man got up and walked down to the beach, only then realizing that the beach was dark because it was covered with starfish that had washed up on the shore. As he approached the older man, he could see that he was picking up starfish--one at a time--and throwing them into the ocean.

The young man asked the older man why he was doing it--after all, there were literally thousands of starfish on the beach and he couldn't possibly save them all; what difference could he possibly make with such a massive chore? The older man, not dismayed by the young man's comment, bent down and picked up another starfish and then tossed it into the ocean; he looked at the young man and said,

"It made a difference to that one."

He then repeated the same action and words a few more times. And then, as the message sank in, the young man bent over and started throwing starfish into the ocean as well.

We all can make a difference in someone else's life. All it takes is stopping to realize that, while the world is bigger than just one person, to that one person your actions could mean the world.


Tomorrow's article will be: What Dementia is and what it is not--facts and fallacies

You can read more about current issues in dementia by going to

References and articles are updated daily with information from researchers, caregivers, and others around the globe.



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