According to the World Health Organization, dementia is among the top ten leading causes of death and a major cause of dependency and disability among seniors globally.
It is estimated that over 55 million people live with dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases joining this group annually. It is projected that some 139 million people will have dementia by 2050.
Dementia is caused by various injuries and diseases that affect the brain leading to cognitive decline. This condition is common among older people but is not an automatic consequence of aging.
The decline in cognitive function affects thinking, memory, calculation, comprehension, learning capacity, judgment, and language. The developments are often accompanied by severe changes in behavior, mood, emotional control, and motivation.
Dementia has economic, social, and psychological impacts on its victims, their families, carers, and society in general. However, it's sad that this condition is not well understood, and the lack of awareness has been linked to barriers that hinder proper diagnosis and care.
Common mental and behavioral symptoms of dementia
Dementia affects people differently depending on the underlying medical condition and the individual's state of cognitive functioning before getting sick. It is generally understood that dementia happens in three stages – early, middle and late stages.
The mental and behavioral symptoms of dementia also depend on the form of dementia a person has. Currently, Alzheimer's disease contributes to 60-70% of dementia cases, making it the most common form of this syndrome.
Other forms of dementia are Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. This condition may also be triggered by stroke, infections, repetitive brain injuries, alcohol abuse, and nutritional deficiencies.
It is not usually easy to determine the exact cause of dementia because the causalities often co-exist. For example, mixed dementia can happen, so finding a person with vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease is not uncommon.
Nonetheless, here are some common behavioral and mental symptoms to look out for.
Depression can describe a syndrome and mood because it is usually associated with extreme feelings of sadness.
For example, a person can be depressed following the demise of a loved one or divorce. It can also symptomize other disorders like hypothyroidism.
It can also be a syndrome, especially when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Poor sleep
- Guilt feelings
Depression is common in dementia cases, with depressive symptoms appearing in roughly 20-30% of case studies. It has been observed that persons confined to long-term residential care may have higher risks of developing depression.
So, one of the areas that dementia treatment plans focus on is depression. By treating depression, the affected person's mood can improve significantly, as well as their eagerness to participate in routine activities.
Anxiety is another common behavioral symptom of dementia.
A 2017 study contends that as many as 71% of people with Alzheimer's or any form of dementia have some level of anxiety. It is believed to be the reason behind typical dementia behavior like aggression and wandering.
Researchers observe that anxiety is more common in cases of vascular dementia than Alzheimer's disease. This is because people with this type of dementia are more aware of their condition. The increased anxiety is linked to their worries regarding their future and how they will cope as their memory diminishes.
Moreover, if you have a history of anxiety attacks, you may be more prone to getting it again. Researchers also think being confined to care homes may increase anxiety, especially when an individual's needs are overlooked.
For example, having someone to talk to regularly in such settings may not be possible. It is also harder to engage in daytime activities to remain active.
Therefore, as their mental state continues to deteriorate, people with dementia become increasingly forgetful, disoriented, and unable to think through things clearly. The struggle to make sense of a world you barely understand can be confusing and cause undue anxiety.
According to a 2021 study, agitation appears in 30% of dementia cases and is the third-most common behavioral symptom of dementia. It is more prevalent in persons with Alzheimer's disease (30-50%) than the other forms of dementia. People with dementia living in care homes are 80% more likely to display agitation.
Researchers attribute the higher levels of agitation to dysfunction in the frontal lobe, primarily the orbitofrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. These brain parts play an essential role in decision-making and subsequent reaction to stimuli.
Agitation in persons with dementia is often characterized by restlessness, hence the back and forth pacing. These people also get easily upset, fidget a lot, and may make repetitive movements.
While agitation in people with dementia is often linked to the anxiety occasioned by the diminishing ability to process new information and react to stimuli, it can also be caused by the following:
- Relocation to a nursing home
- Environmental changes, e.g., a new caregiver, hospitalization, and travel
- Changes in care arrangements
- (Mis)perceived threats
- Fatigue from trying to make sense of the world
Adults who exhibit increasing anxiety for over five years are at risk of developing dementia due to the accumulation of the beta-amyloid peptide in their brains.
Common physical symptoms of dementia
People with dementia not only display mental and behavioral symptoms, but they also display physical signs. Here are those most commonly seen:
Memory loss is pretty common in late-stage dementia. What often starts in the early stages of ordinary forgetfulness develops into forgetting people's names and recent events such as what they had for breakfast.
This progresses to confusion where the affected individual loses sense of time and place. When this happens, the affected individual may relive memories from a different time. This means they might say things and behave in ways that don't make sense to the people with them.
These people may also fail to recognize family members and friends, often confusing people for who they are not. In extreme cases, they can also fail to recognize themselves.
At this point, the psychological impact on the family is immense as it struggles to adopt mechanisms to make life easier for the affected member.
Difficulty completing simple tasks
As a person's cognitive function declines, they tend to forget things. So, they may not know what to do in certain situations. If they were doing handiwork, they might forget which tool to use or the steps needed to do the job.
But more importantly, dementia also causes muscle weakness. For example, people with vascular dementia can have problems with balance and walking due to weakness in the limbs. They are likely to fall if they can manage to stand in the fast place.
A combination of muscle weakness and deteriorating mental functions won't make it easy for anyone to do, let alone complete simple tasks. Indeed, even staying on task is often challenging because they can't concentrate.
Gradual progression of confusion
As dementia progresses, affected persons get more confused. They lose track of time, get lost in familiar environments (e.g., at home), and lose their ability to communicate with others. It's an indication that their cognitive functions are failing, and what were once simple tasks become challenging.
Confusion usually is part of the "sundowner" symptom witnessed in people with dementia. It refers to the meltdown (aggression, agitation) often seen in the afternoons and evenings.
Benefits of CBD for seniors with dementia
CBD research is just beginning, so there is no research-based proof that it can help with dementia.
For those not in the know, CBD refers to cannabidiol – a cannabinoid compound in cannabis plants being studied for its ability to help in pain relief, stress and anxiety reduction, and seizure management.
Nonetheless, CBD's potential as a treatment for dementia stems from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
This system is responsible for regulating a host of bodily functions, including cognition, memory, immune function, pain perception, appetite, sleep, and mood.
Studies indicate that endocannabinoids may have a role in psychosis. Therefore, a compound that can affect how the endocannabinoid systems work could potentially alter the development and progression of psychosis. However, this position is largely theoretical.
A few research findings offer glimpses of hope for the potential of CBD in treating dementia.
One of the defining features of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of the amyloid protein peptide in the brain. Research shows that cannabis can remove this protein from nerve cells in vitro.
In another study where researchers gave THC and CBD oil to mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, the findings showed significant improvements in learning and less amyloid in their bodies.
Some studies suggest that cannabis may help manage some behavioral symptoms in people with dementia, such as aggression and agitation.
The verdict on whether CBD could offer health benefits for people with dementia is opaque. There is a dire need for more research to establish more facts.
Be that as it may, other studies have shown that CBD may have properties that can help with:
An expanding body of studies shows that CBD may improve anti-inflammatory responses.
It's been shown to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inducing the apoptosis of T-cells, preventing the proliferation of T-cells, and slowing the migration and progression of immune cells.
For example, a 2021 study concluded that a CBD-CBG formulation exhibited anti-inflammatory properties. Also, an animal study conducted in 2018 showed that topical CBD could lower inflammation in patients with arthritis.
Indeed, CBD's anti-inflammatory properties underpin its immense popularity today. These could be particularly beneficial in dementia cases because inflammation in the brain is believed to fuel the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
So this is one aspect of dementia that CBD may help with theoretically. However, it should be noted that there are no clinical trials on the impact of CBD on people living with dementia.
Memory and brain function
CBD's ability to enhance memory and brain function is attributed to its antagonistic effects on THC. Research shows that CBD and THC work differently despite being cannabinoids.
For the most part, CBD has been shown to minimize some effects of THC, such as anxiety, increased appetite, and the well-known "high."
Researchers propose that CBD can enhance brain function by improving blood flow to the hippocampus – a part of the brain that controls memory. As a result, some studies have shown that CBD improves brain activity in the striatum.
On the subject of CBD's effect on cognitive function, there is still not sufficient evidence to support the said mental benefits of CBD. However, habitual users of cannabis products cite heightened focus, mental clarity, and increased concentration as some of the accrued benefits.
CBD may improve oxygen levels and reduce physical lung damage. These findings were reached based on a lab experiment investigating the effects of CBD on adult respiratory distress (ARDS). The researchers noted that CBD stimulated the production of a peptide called apelin.
Apelin is manufactured in the brain, heart, lung, blood, and fatty tissue and is a vital regulator of inflammation and blood pressure. People with dementia often develop wide-ranging health complications like infections.
Unfortunately, they may not be able to communicate with family and caregivers. In fact, these infections are often the cause of dementia deaths.
So, if, for example, blood pressure rises, apelin levels increase in places like the endothelial cells to help bring the pressure down.
The administration of CBD has been shown to stimulate apelin production, leading to reduced inflammation, better lung function, and higher oxygen levels. It even restored structural integrity to areas in the lungs damaged by infections.
A study showed that abnormal oxygen levels in the brain could onset Alzheimer's disease. It also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and other infections associated with Alzheimer's.
According to a study conducted at the University of Sussex, increasing blood flow to the hippocampus prevented damage and degeneration. Researchers say that lower oxygen levels in the hippocampus prevent neurons from working effectively. This raises the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Evidently, keeping your blood flowing could be vital toward lowering the probability of developing dementia. This only throws more weight on the importance of regular exercise and maintaining healthy body weight.
Can CBD oil treat dementia or its symptoms?
Most of the symptoms that cause dementia are irreversible, meaning dementia is not treatable. Furthermore, anti-dementia medications and management therapies have not been as effective as desired.
Moreover, these medications have mainly targeted Alzheimer's disease while ignoring other forms of dementia.
The emergence of CBD as an alternative treatment plan for people with dementia has not changed matters just yet. There are no conclusive reports that it treats dementia.
However, some medical experts laud the effectiveness of THC-CBD combinations in managing dementia symptoms like aggression, agitation, and poor sleep.
So, the jury is still out regarding the potential use of cannabis or its products in treating dementia. In fact, some studies suggest that long-term use of cannabis could create memory problems.
Therefore, it's best to consult a healthcare provider if you want to incorporate cannabis products into a treatment plant.
Treating and preventing dementia
Dementia is not treatable, so care is primarily intended to make the lives of people with dementia easier. Carers are advised how to handle them to reduce some symptoms.
Moreover, there are other measures you can take to reduce the risks of developing dementia. Being physically active is an excellent way to start. It improves blood flow and increases mental and physical capabilities.
Quitting smoking can also prevent the development of blood vessel diseases, which can alter blood flow to the brain.
You can also give alcohol a wide berth to preserve your brain's integrity. Numerous studies indicated that alcohol use was linked to higher risks of dementia, especially onset dementia.
Other risk factors you can work on include:
- Poor sleep
- Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies
- Air pollution
- Medications that worsen memory problems, e.g., diphenhydramine and oxybutynin
- Head trauma
How does CBD oil help sleep
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to stimulate various beneficial physiological and biological processes.
For example, CBD has been shown to influence serotonin activity in the brain leading to increased concentration of serotonin in the body. This creates a calming "feel-good" effect that promotes good sleep.
CBD also supports in the reduction of anxiety—a significant sleep distractor— thanks to its ability to calm the central nervous system.
For these reasons, CBD products are widely used as sleep aids. Indeed, research shows that CBD may help with sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, REM sleep disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
While such findings are promising, not much is understood regarding how CBD works.
What is the best CBD oil for sleep?
Regular users of CBD cite various health benefits such as better sleep, pain relief, stress, and anxiety reduction. The good thing about CBD is that its benefits are often intertwined, meaning it positively impacts your overall health and wellbeing.
So if you're thinking about using CBD for better sleep, here are CBD products from FOCL worth trying.
Sleep Drops: CBD comes in many forms, with oils ranking among the most preferred. These drops contain CBD and CBN to promote deeper sleep. A few drops under your tongue before bedtime should be enough to relax, calm, and make you fall asleep quicker.
CBD + CBN Sleep Gummies: these products are specially formulated to calm your mind and ease stress. A combination of CBD, CBN, and powerful organic supplements means you get a healthy dose of well-known sleep-enhancers to help you dose off to better, deeper sleep.