Dementia is “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Dementia is not a specific illness; it is a term that refers to a wide range of symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Other types of dementia include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (previously known as “wet brain”).
Common symptoms across forms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty in performing complex tasks, communication difficulties, personality changes and paranoia, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to their cognitive component, many types of dementia include physical symptoms as well, such as the abnormal eye movements of Huntington’s disease or the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.
FightDementia.org recommends avoiding the terms demented, dementing, dements, senile, or senility to refer to someone with dementia. The terms senility and senile denote conditions brought on by aging and often are used incorrectly to denote dementia.
Refer to someone as having dementia only if the information is relevant to the story and a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. Use people-first language when describing someone with dementia, such as a person with dementia. Avoid describing someone as being demented or senile.
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