In television and movies, the portrayal of dementia has long been fairly stereotypical. The scene is usually an elderly woman, usually in a nightgown in the middle of the evening, wandering around outside of the home. She will appear lost and distracted, and be unable to recognize her own children when they find her and want to bring her to safety, and may even resist them stubbornly or aggressively.
While there is, admittedly, some truth to this scenario, which is that most individuals who suffer from dementia are women, and most dementia is Alzheimer’s, there are several important aspects of the condition that are forgotten. Dementia often includes sensory loss, such as losing hearing, smelling, tasting, and even the sense of touch, being impacted.
Dementia is not a specific disease. Instead, dementia is a term that refers to all the disorders that are caused by an abnormal change to the brain. These changes have a negative impact on thinking skills, which damage a person’s day to day life and ability to live independently. The changes can also affect a person's behavior, feelings, and relationships. Alzheimer’s is the most known form of dementia, with up to 80% of the people with dementia being diagnosed with it. And critically, the mental decline of dementia is not a normal or expected part of aging.
Not everyone who experiences dementia will have the same sensory loss, but everyone with it will have some form of it. Vision may become restricted, with the loss of depth perception or peripheral vision. It may affect the brain areas that process auditory information and encode memory. And it may cause a delay in processing sensation, causing them to fail to notice pain, heat or cold, or hunger.