An important symptom of neurologic disease is failing memory. Dementia can be defined as the progressive impairment of orientation, memory, judgment, and other aspects of intellectual function. Dementia is a symptom rather than a specific disease entity. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Other causes include Parkinson's disease, vascular disorders, metabolic disorders, drugs, tumors, vitamin B12 deficiency, and normal-pressure hydrocephalus. It is common for patients with early dementia to recognize an increasing inability to comprehend written material. Ask the patient and his or her friends and family the following:
''Have you noticed any change in your memory lately?'' ''Do you have difficulty reading or understanding what you have read?'' ''What was the patient's personality like a few years ago?'' ''When was the last time the patient seemed normal?'' ''What does the patient's diet consist of? Does he or she eat well?'' ''Can the patient live alone?''
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