sailor girlMulti-Infarct Dementia (MID)

Fact Sheet: Dementia


Dementia is an impairment in short-term and long-term memory associated with problems in abstract thinking, problems with judgment, other disturbances of brain function, and changes in personality. The disturbance is severe enough to interfere significantly with the ability to perform routine activities.


The symptoms of dementia include: inability to learn new information; inability to remember information that was known in the past; problems with abstract thinking; poor judgment; disturbances in other brain functions such as the abilities to speak effectively, carry out motor activities or recognize or identify objects; personality change; interference with the ability to work or carry out usual social activities. Other symptoms that may accompany dementia include anxiety, depression, or suspiciousness.


Dementia always has a physical cause. The most common dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, is caused by changes in the structure of the brain that may develop because of genetic inheritance, a chemical imbalance, viral infection, environmental toxins, or for other reasons. A great deal of research is being carried out to discover more about its cause, prevention and treatment. Another fairly common dementia is Multi-infarct Dementia which is caused by blood vessel disease or many small strokes in the brain. Still other dementias are caused by brain infections, AIDS, metabolic disturbances, neurological diseases, lack of oxygen or sugar to the brain, or a buildup of pressure in the brain.


Alzheimer's Disease, the most common dementia, usually develops slowly and is always progressive, with a generally deteriorating course over a period of several years. Multi-infarct Dementia is also progressive, although its onset may be more abrupt and there may be longer stable periods than there are in Alzheimer's Disease. With the other dementias, the course varies depending on the cause. Dementia can occur at any age, but Alzheimer's Disease and Multi-infarct Dementia are most common in the elderly.


Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's Disease or Multi-infarct Dementia, many of the symptoms can be treated or managed so the patient can remain comfortable and functional for as long as possible. Ongoing medical care is extremely important so the patient's physical health can be maintained. Various medications can also be prescribed when they are needed for agitation, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, or sleeplessness.


1. Some of the measures that the family of a person with dementia can take to maximize the patient's comfort and functioning are:

2. Maintain a consistent, predictable daily routine. Make sure there are lots of familiar objects around to be seen and enjoyed.

3. Check on the patient's wherabouts and safety regularly. One method some families use to prevent wandering is to attach bells to all the doors that lead outside.

4. Make sure the patient eats well and drinks plenty of liquids.

5. Help the patient stay as independent as possible for as long as possible.

6. Provide opportunities for the patient to exercise regularly and don't forget some recreation.

7. Continue to socialize with friends and family.

8. Use written memory aids such as prominently displayed calendars and clocks, lists of daily tasks, reminders about routines or safety measures, and identifying labels on objects that might be forgotten.

9. See that the patient gets regular medical checkups.

10. Plan in advance for future needs such as respite care or nursing home placement.

11. Give lots of emotional support to the patient and all the caregivers.

12. See that the patient takes medications regularly, if prescribed.

13. Join a support group for family members.

14. Ask for help with finances, legal arrangements, day-to-day advice, emotional issues, respite care or nursing home arrangements when they are needed.

15. Check the home for safety features, such as bars on the wall near the toilet and bathtub, night lights in hallways and on the stairs, non-slip rugs, etc.

16. Make sure all health care providers have a complete list of all the patient's prescription and over-the-counter medications.


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