Dementia - Medical specialists

Here you will find medical experts in clinics and medical practices in the medical field Dementia. All listed physicians are specialists in their field and have been carefully selected for you according to strict guidelines.
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Overview

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Dementia - Further information

In which specialist field is a dementia specialist active?

Dementia specialists from different medical disciplines may be involved in handling the diagnosis, treatment and care of dementia sufferers. These professionals are likely to include:

  • a geriatrician, whose responsibility will be to manage the health care of older adults. Geriatricians understand the ageing process and can apply their expertise to determine the severity of symptoms and recommend medical responses
  • a neurologist, whose specialist input concerns abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system. This expertise will be deployed to conduct testing and also to analyse and interpret brain scans
  • a geriatric psychiatrist, whose focus will be on the mental and emotional problems experienced by older adults, and who will be able to assess memory and thinking
  • a neurosurgeon, who may occasionally be called upon to perform surgical procedures, for example, to alleviate symptoms
  • a neuropsychologist, who may be requested to conduct tests related to aspects of memory and thinking
  • a neuropharmacologist, whose interventions may recommend special medications to correct or alleviate some of the brain function problems that dementia presents
  • a specialist dementia nurse, whose focused training will be required to meet the condition-specific demands of dementia care

It should be noted that, although dementia is an illness that principally afflicts older adults, the onset of dementia can also occur among working-age adults between 30 and 65 years old.

Which illnesses do dementia specialists treat?

Dementia specialists focus on dementia as a major neurocognitive disorder.

This illness causes difficulties in the areas of thinking, memory and reasoning. Often referred to as a ‘disorder’, dementia is not actually one specific disease, and is best thought of as a collection of symptoms caused by a number of other conditions, which commonly include:

Dementia can be classified in two categories, according to the brain region affected.

  • cortical dementias relate to problems in the outer layer of the brain (cerebral cortex) responsible for memory and language. Those with this kind of dementia typically have severe memory loss, don’t remember words and can’t understand language
  • subcortical dementias relate to problems in the parts of the brain that lie underneath the cortex. Rather than forgetfulness and language issues, those with subcortical dementias will exhibit changes in their speed of thinking and ability to take action

Alzheimer's disease brain comparison
Comparison of a normal brain with a brain, that suffers with Alzheimer's disease

Some dementias affect both brain regions, and although treatment may ease symptoms, most of the diseases that cause dementia do not have a cure.

What treatment methods are used by dementia specialists?

Dementia treatments include management initiatives, psychological therapies, medication and pain management.

Management

Cognitive and behavioural interventions are often appropriate and there is some evidence that educating and providing support for the person with dementia (as well as caregivers and family) improves outcomes. Exercise programs help with the activities of daily living and thus potentially improve dementia.

Psychological therapies used in dementia treatment include:

  • music therapy
  • reminiscence therapy
  • validation therapy (building empathy and reducing anxiety)
  • mental exercises, such as cognitive stimulation programs

Medication

No medications have been shown to prevent or cure dementia. Medications are thus used to treat behavioural and cognitive symptoms, but have no effect on the progress of the underlying diseases.

Pain management

It is estimated that between 25% and 50% of seniors with dementia experience conditions likely to cause pain. However, since they become incapable of informing others, this pain is often difficult to assess. This is one example of how trained psychiatric nurses make a distinctive contribution to the mental health of this vulnerable population.

What additional qualifications do dementia specialists require?

Though no qualifications for medical practice are dementia-specific, all geriatricians are required to develop competence in areas such as:

  • palliative (end of life) care and planning
  • orthogeriatrics (medical care for older adults with orthopaedic trauma)
  • old age psychiatry

Furthermore, a geriatrician will need to be aware of how drug medications affect older adults, how these medications may interact, and how they are used to combat a range of diseases.

In addition, a geriatrician must be aware of ethical issues and how legal frameworks apply to vulnerable elderly people in areas such as:

  • power of attorney
  • guardianship
  • mental health legislation
  • resuscitation

Many professional practitioners will have a solid grounding in neurology, though different countries will achieve this via different routes. For example:

  • in Canada and the USA, neurologists are physicians who, after graduation from medical school, then complete their postgraduate training in neurology.
  • in Germany, a compulsory year of psychiatry forms part of a residency in neurology.
  • in the UK and Ireland, neurology is considered a sub-speciality of general medicine.