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Dementia is a progressive illness with symptoms that tend to worsen over time. A person who has advanced dementia will have all of the symptoms that characterized the early stages of the disease as well as new symptoms exclusive to the advanced stage. There are several types of dementia, including vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Despite this variety, generally the symptoms of most of these dementias are similar and include changes in personality, memory loss, disorientation, the inability to perform daily tasks, an inability to use language and the inability to censor personal behavior.
Personality changes are common in the early stages of dementia and tend to become magnified in advanced dementia. Many times, personality characteristics can become exaggerated at this stage, and people who are somewhat anxious can become severely anxious, or people who are calmer can become withdrawn and passive. The opposite trend is also possible, and sometimes those who were once capable of making sound decisions can become irresponsible and rash.
One of the first signs of dementia is memory loss. People with this disorder have trouble remembering recent events, people they have met and places where they have been. In advanced dementia, people often have difficulty remembering any new information and are often unable to recognize their loved ones. They cannot remember conversations or recall their recent activities. Often, they will repeat themselves, request things they might have already received and ask the same questions again and again.
Disorientation is also a common symptom shared by those with advanced dementia. In many cases, those in this stage of the disease do not recognize themselves or any of their loved ones. It is not uncommon for them to be completely unaware of where they are or how they got there. Often, they are unable to keep track of time, and they confuse events that happened long ago with events that happened recently.
Advanced dementia also makes it difficult for people to perform their usual daily tasks. Sufferers generally have difficulty bathing, dressing and using the toilet. Also, activities that were at one time thought of as simple can become nearly impossible tasks for someone with advanced dementia. For instance, someone who at one time made his or her living using computers might be unable even to turn on a computer in this stage of the disease.
During the later stages of the disease, it is often difficult for people to talk and utilize language. They lose muscle control, and they are unable to put together sentences or even to communicate with others. In severe cases, the person ends up completely incapacitated, unable to talk, walk or, in some cases, eat.
Many people with advanced dementia have difficulty controlling their behavior and might act out inappropriately by hitting or yelling. Many times, people with advanced dementia have completely forgotten about social norms that dictate proper behavior, and they will act impulsively. For instance, they might remove their clothing if they become warm or talk in a sexually explicit manner.
There seems to be a dearth of honest information in the UK about dementia. My mother died 18 months ago with MI Dementia and I have tried everywhere to get information about her dying process. Perhaps it is too much of a squeamish topic for doctors but I would welcome honest, open information.