Dementia can affect the functioning of many body systems and, therefore, the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Dementia may lead to several problems, including:

  • Inadequate nutrition. Many people with dementia will eventually reduce or stop eating and drinking. They may forget to eat or think they've already eaten. Changes in meal times or noise distractions in their environment may affect whether they eat.

    Often, advanced dementia causes you to lose control of the muscles used to chew and swallow. This may put you at risk of choking or aspirating food in your lungs. If this happens, it can block breathing and cause pneumonia. You also lose the feeling of hunger and, with it, the desire to eat.

    Depression, side effects of medications, constipation and other conditions also can decrease your interest in food.

  • Reduced hygiene. In moderate to severe stages of dementia, you'll eventually lose the ability to independently complete daily living tasks. You may no longer be able to bathe, dress, brush your hair or teeth, or use the toilet on your own.
  • Difficulty taking medications. Because your memory is affected, remembering to take the correct amount of medications at the right time can be challenging.
  • Deterioration of emotional health. Dementia changes behaviors and personality. Some of the changes may be caused by the actual deterioration happening in your brain, while other behavioral and personality changes may be emotional reactions to coping with the changes in your brain.

    Dementia may lead to depression, aggression, confusion, frustration, anxiety, a lack of inhibition and disorientation.

  • Difficulty communicating. As dementia progresses, you may lose the ability to remember the names of people and things. You may have trouble communicating with others or understanding others. Difficulty communicating can lead to feelings of agitation, isolation and depression.
  • Delusions and hallucinations. You may experience delusions in which you have false ideas about another person or situation.

    Some people, especially those with Lewy body dementia, may have visual hallucinations.

  • Sleep difficulties. You may experience sleep difficulties, such as waking up very early in the morning. Some people with dementia may have restless legs syndrome or rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which also can interfere with sleep.
  • Personal safety challenges. Because of a reduced capacity for decision making and problem-solving, some day-to-day situations can present safety issues for people with dementia. These include driving, cooking, falling, getting lost and negotiating obstacles.
Apr. 16, 2013