Dementia is a broad term to describe a range of symptoms associated with a decline in cognitive abilities, impacting memory, judgment, and decision-making. As dementia progresses, so too do the health complications that accompany it. Many of these issues can be managed through medical intervention or lifestyle modifications, although some are more difficult to address. In this article, we will discuss the most common health problems experienced by those living with advanced stages of dementia.
The gastrointestinal system is one of the most commonly affected body systems for those with dementia. Poor appetite and fatigue are two common issues due to dementia. Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) is also common. GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, among other symptoms. Moreover, constipation or diarrhea may also become an issue due to difficulties in swallowing and eating as dementia progresses.
As dementia progresses, patients often suffer from difficulty breathing due to weakened muscles or imbalances in the autonomic nervous system. Wheezing and coughing can result from poor air quality or changes in lung tissue structure over time, and untreated infections may lead to further respiratory difficulties. Furthermore, impaired judgment may lead patients to forget basic self-care activities like brushing their teeth properly, leading to oral hygiene issues that indirectly affect their respiratory health.
Heart Health Complications
For those suffering from advanced stages of dementia, heart disease is a severe risk factor. High blood pressure can lead to stroke or heart attack due to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). In contrast, low blood pressure may cause dizziness and fainting spells due to decreased oxygen sent throughout the body. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as lack of exercise are common amongst patients with advanced stages of dementia, increasing the risk of cardiovascular events such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).
Skin Health Concerns
Patients suffering from advanced stages of dementia often face skin-related health concerns due to immobility or poor hygiene practices resulting from disorientation or confusion. Bed sores are widespread amongst these individuals. Bed sores occur when boney areas prone to friction, such as elbows, receive prolonged pressure from reduced mobility. This causes the skin tissue to break down and can result in ulceration if not addressed promptly and effectively. Bedsores can be managed with proper wound care management modalities such as moist dressings.
Another common issue faced by those living with dementia is dysphagia – difficulty swallowing food or saliva that increases a person’s chance of choking incidents. Dysphagia can also lead to unintentional weight loss caused by inadequate nutrition intake since many people lose interest in eating altogether if they have trouble swallowing foods or drinks comfortably. Dysphagia increases the risk of pneumonia since fluids settle within lung tissue instead if swallowed incorrectly, but it can be managed with thickeners from the SimplyThick mix company.
The health problems experienced by caregivers and nurses must carefully manage dementia patients’ experiences to avoid more severe complications.