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What Factors Affect Dementia Prognosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2018
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Some factors that can influence the dementia prognosis for a patient include the type of dementia, any comorbidities and the level of assistance and support available. Some forms of dementia are less severe, especially in otherwise healthy patients who have access to therapy and other treatments. Other forms are more serious and could lead to a rapid decline, even in a reasonably healthy patient. A doctor can perform a thorough evaluation and meet with friends, family members and the patient to determine the dementia prognosis.

"Dementia" is an umbrella term for a loss of cognitive function in which two or more functions are significantly impaired; for example, a patient might have poor memory and could have trouble with language. It typically onsets later in life, after age 65. Some forms are progressive and might develop rapidly or slowly. Others are the result of brain injuries and remain fixed and static, without getting worse.

Doctors can classify various forms of dementia into Alzheimer's disease and non-Alzheimer's on the basis of the patient's specific condition. The condition might be cortical or subcortical in nature and is sometimes reversible. For a patient who has reversible dementia, the prognosis can be very good. On the other hand, a patient who has a rapidly progressive condition such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease might have a very poor dementia prognosis. Such patients experience very fast decline that is not reversible.

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Comorbidities can be an issue. Sometimes dementia is caused by an underlying disease such as cancer or a degenerative neurological condition that can make the patient even more unhealthy. In other cases, another condition, such as depression, accompanies the dementia and might worsen the dementia prognosis. The patient might not be able to cope with multiple illnesses and cognitive decline or might have difficulty finding an appropriate treatment that balances the needs of all of the medical issues involved. This also can make it more difficult for care providers to offer the necessary assistance.

Support can make a big difference in a dementia prognosis. If the patient starts planning for more advanced stages of dementia early, the chances of remaining comfortable are higher. Therapy can help patients develop coping techniques to help them with their cognitive deficits. It also can help preparation for the future. A patient who feels relatively mentally alert might want to learn about how to deal with advanced dementia early to prepare for more severe stages of disease in which capacity might be significantly reduced.

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