Understand the Process and Experience of Dementia

Unit 33 Understand the Process and Experience of Dementia

Understand the neurology of dementia

      1.1 Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that affect memory, behaviour and motor skills. The causes vary depending on the disease but largely the presence of “plaques” and “tangles” on the neurons of the brain is found in people with Alzheimer’s. Plaques are protein that the body no longer breaks down and allows to build up; these get between the neurons and disrupt the message transmission. Tangles destroy a vital cell transport system made of proteins. The transport system is organised in orderly parallel strands like rail tracks. In healthy areas a protein call “tau” helps the tracks stay straight but in areas where tangles are forming the tau collapses into twisted strands and the tracks can no longer stay straight and fall apart and disintegrate.

In Alzheimer’s disease, two abnormal proteins build in the brain. They form clumps called either “plaques” or “tangles”. These plaques and tangles interfere with how brain cells work and communicate with each other. The plaques are usually first seen in the area of the brain that makes new memories.

Vascular dementia is caused by blood flow to the brain being reduced. Blood carries essential oxygen and nourishment to the brain and without it brain cells die. The network of blood vessels that carry blood around the body is called the vascular system. Stroke related dementia happens after a stroke. A stroke will occur when blood supply to a part of a brain is suddenly cut off. This may cause difficulties in moving, co-ordination, speech and sight. If a stroke causes memory loss and problems with attention, then a person may be diagnosed with post stroke dementia. Multi-infarct dementia is caused by a series of small strokes in the brain, which a person might not notice.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies is caused by small, round clumps of protein that build up inside nerve cells in the brain. The...