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Assessing dementia

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Clinicians should assess patients for dementia Clinicians should assess patients to learn about the state of their cognitive functioning

Dementia is an irreversible neurodegenerative condition causing cognitive impairment and a decline in memory.1 It is an age-related condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV defines dementia as memory decline with impairment of at least one other cognitive function.2 The latter refers to impairment of skilled movement (limb apraxia), aphasia or executive function such as abstract reasoning.1,2

The decline is reflected by a change from previous to current behaviours. Dementia can have an impact on social and/or occupational function. Importantly, it isnot attributable to other psychiatric conditions, such as depression. Dementia may present with behavioural and/or mood changes, disorientation and personality changes, such as disinhibition.3 However, many people with dementia retain positive personality traits.3

What are the challenges?
The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular subtypes of dementia. Up to 20% of individuals above the age of 85 years are likely to have dementia.1 It is increasingly more common due to our ageing population. Difficulty with activities of daily


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