Overview of Dementia

Photo of woman comforting concerned manDementia is a term used to refer to a collection of neurodegenerative diseases, which affect cognitive abilities and memory. These neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, dementia caused by Huntington's disease, dementia caused by Parkinson's disease, alcohol-induced persisting dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Of these neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's disease is the most common. Often individuals are affected by two or more forms of dementia. Over time individuals with a form of dementia experience changes in memory, thought, navigation, language, behavior, mood and personality. Memory issues should be assessed by a healthcare provider and other potential causes ruled out before a formal diagnosis is made.

Behavioral changes observed during the onset of a form of dementia can include poor judgment, difficulty with problem solving, inability to manage finances, misplacing items, and disconnection from the date or season. Risk of developing a form of dementia increases with age, therefore older adults aged 65 and older experience the highest prevalence. A small percentage of individuals are diagnosed before the age of 65 and this is recognized as early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Forms of dementia disproportionately affect women, and members of the African American and Hispanic communities. Due to the debilitating nature of these diseases formal and/or informal caregiving is required to assist with activities such as meal preparation, taking medications, housework, money management and eventually eating, toileting, and bathing. The progression of these diseases can be rapid or slow depending on the individual and their diagnosis.

Dementia Services at DARS

DARS Logo The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services is the lead agency for dementia-related activities in the Commonwealth ( § 51.5-152 ). Dementia Services, housed within the Community Based Services Division, provides assistance across the Commonwealth to persons with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, and their caregivers. The primary role of Dementia Services is to monitor the development and implementation of Virginia's Dementia State Plan by coordinating, facilitating, and supporting the activities of the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Commission. Additional functions include disseminating information, coordinating services and activities, and identifying interdisciplinary memory assessment centers.

To learn more about what the agency is doing to support individuals with dementia and their caregivers or to contact the Dementia Services Coordinator please click here to be re-directed to the Dementia Services webpage.


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