Dementia Care

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Having some memory loss is a normal part of aging. But when memory loss is accompanied by a loss in the ability to reason, understand, or communicate  it might be dementia. Dementia is a general loss of mental abilities that's severe enough to interfere with day-to-day activities.  

People with dementia must have:

  • Memory problems
  • Mental loss that's severe enough to cause problems with:
    • Language
    • Visuospatial function
    • Executive function (foresight, planning, anticipation, insight)
    • Learned motor skills

Diagnosing & Treating Dementia at UVA Health

At UVA Health, your provider will talk to you about your family's medical history. They may also observe your behavior 

  • An extensive medical history from you and your family
  • Observing your behavior
  • A physical exam
  • Tests for your nervous system
  • Mental status and psychological tests

There are no blood tests or exams for diagnosis. Your provider might order a SPECT or a PET scan to image your brain. They may also do tests to rule out other medical conditions that mimic dementia. Some of these tests may include: 

  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture 
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Imaging tests take pictures of internal body structures. These may include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan


Currently, there are no treatments to cure many types of dementia. Some medication may improve your symptoms. There may also be treatments to slow the progression. 


People with dementia often develop psychiatric symptoms. You may need appropriate treatment, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotics

Lifestyle Management

People with dementia can benefit from support and changes in their environment. These include:

  • Adapting your home to keep you safe
  • Providing a calm, quiet, predictable environment
  • Providing appropriate eyewear and hearing aids, easy-to-read clocks and calendars
  • Participating in music therapy and/or dance therapy
  • Participating in physical and occupational therapy for daily activities
  • Encouraging light exercise to reduce agitation and relieve depression
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Discussing healthcare wishes with family members and doctors 
  • Appointing a healthcare proxy and a legal power of attorney

What Causes Dementia?

Causes include:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain damage after multiple small strokes
  • Lewy body disease
  • Alcoholism
  • AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Huntington's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion disorders
  • Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick's disease)
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Untreated syphilis
  • Toxic levels of metals, such as aluminum, which can sometimes occur in people who have dialysis treatment
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Thyroid dysfunction