Managing the Progression of Dementia

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Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist, discusses how to manage and prevent the symptoms of dementia.

Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist, discusses how to manage and prevent the symptoms of dementia.

Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist

Video Title: Managing the Progression of Dementia

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Unfortunately dementia is a frightening word for families as is Alzheimer’s disease because it does carry with it the image of a progressive condition, which it is.

It does progress over typically about 10 to 15 years. Usually it’s slow and gradual and early on people can function quite well, they can travel, they can visit with family, they can engage in a number of hobbies and interests. So there are a lot of things you can still do even with a dementia.

We do have some things to try to treat dementia and using those strategies we can try and improve somebody’s quality of life. The treatment for dementia is mostly based on treating symptoms so if somebody has low mood or depression then you may treat depression, if there’s other types of behavioural problems you may try to treat those problems as well.

We don’t really understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. We think that it has to do with these amyloid plaques that deposit in the brain, or these tangles that show up in the brain but we’re not sure if they’re the thing that starts the process or just a marker as it goes along.

So we do know a lot more about Alzheimer’s than we did 10 years ago but we’re still struggling to figure out what is the real process that starts this thing and how can we stop it.

But one of the core treatments we have for Alzheimer’s disease is to use medications early on that keep people functioning at a higher level for longer. These treatments, particularly medications, called cholinesterase inhibitors, they’re medicines that boost the level of a chemical that’s low in the brain in Alzheimer’s.

These  treatments do make an impact on people’s prognosis. So you may see that they may stay functioning in the community for longer, they may have less behavioural problems that develop as the disease goes on and they may even find that they are more interested or attentive to things.

It rarely improves their memory, so I tell my families, don’t expect the memory to get better, it will get worse, but we’re hoping that the function stays better for longer. So these are important treatments that are meaningful and that’s one of the reasons that we encourage people to seek care with their family doctors early, because getting onto a treatment early keeps you functioning at a better level for longer.

Video filmed in conjunction with Dr Dean Foti and Healthchoicesfirst

Presenter: Dr. Dean Foti, Neurologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Neurologist

97-100 People got two or more of these video questions wrong... ( 95 participated.)

Quiz: Do You Understand Dementia?


Dementia isn’t just one condition.


Dementia isn’t just one condition - it’s a term that refers to symptoms that cause a decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.


Alzheimer's disease is not a type of dementia.


In addition to Alzheimer's, some of the other things that can cause dementia include previous or new brain infections, a bad head injury, stroke or multiple sclerosis. There are some treatable conditions that can produce similar symptoms to dementia, such as thyroid disease, vitamin deficiencies, mental illness or sleep disorders.


Visual perception is a core mental function that can be impaired by dementia.


To have dementia, at least two of these core mental functions must be significantly impaired: memory, visual perception, reasoning and judgment, ability to focus or problem-solve and language and communication.


There is one test that can diagnose dementia.


There isn’t one test to diagnose dementia. A physician will usually do a physical examination, ask health history questions, test memory and recommend a blood test, MRI or CT scan. He or she will probably double check symptoms and answers with a loved one as well.


There is no cure for dementia.


Dementia treatment may include medications to slow progression, but they’re not a cure. Counselling, family support and social programs can help people and their loved ones deal with dementia.

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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