Causes of Mental Incapacity

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is a decline in mental ability which affects memory, thinking, problem-solving, concentration and perception. It is caused by the death of brain cells or damage in parts of the brain that deal with our thought processes. Some forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, are degenerative and get worse over time. Other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia, may be non-degenerative and may not progress any further.

People with dementia can become confused, restless or display repetitive behaviour. They can also seem irritable, tearful or agitated. Some people with dementia also develop other problems such as depression, disturbed sleep, aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviour and incontinence, although the latter normally only occur in more advanced dementia cases. Dementia is almost invariably a disease of ageing and is rare in people under 65.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t known, but what is understood is that ageing is the main factor. The second most common type of dementia is vascular or multi-infarct dementia. This is caused by mini strokes that constrict blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for most types of dementia. The exceptions are dementias related to vitamin deficiency (which can be treated with supplements) and head injuries (which can be treated through surgery).

There are a number of treatments which can go some way to alleviating or slowing down the progress of the condition, and these include psychological treatments and drugs that can help people in the early stages of dementia, but these are always limited in their effect.

Some lifestyle changes are thought to help prevent dementia. A healthy diet, regular exercise and keeping your mind active by, for example, doing crosswords, computer games or puzzles may help.

Other Causes

While the vast majority of cases of people being mentally incapacitated are due to dementia, there are other causes, and these include:

head injuries following an accident,
clinical negligence,
learning disabilities,
physical and sensory disabilities,
alcohol or substance abuse.