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one of a group of mental diseases that include senile dementia and functional psychoses of old age.
Senile dementia is a progressive deterioration of mental activity caused by atrophic changes in the brain. The disease generally commences between 70 and 80 years of age and is characterized by changes in personality, for example, callousness, rudeness, apathy, and the development of a sense of alienation. Memory disturbances predominate in the later phases of the disease. Dements cannot fix their attention on what is happening around them; past experience is largely lost, with the memory of comparatively recent events initially affected. Gradually, the individual loses touch with reality and his own identity. On the average, senile dementia lasts three to five years; however, its duration can be much shorter or much longer. The initial stage of the disease may be characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and affective disorders, and the final stage by physical emaciation, which leads to death.
Functional psychoses of old age are mental diseases characteristic only of old age and not related to any organic disease of the brain that leads to dementia. They may be distinguished by systematized delusion with frequent auditory hallucinations, fantastic confabulations, elevated mood (late paraphrenia), or an agitated-depressed state (late melancholia). The treatment of functional psychoses depends on the nature and stage of development of the disease. Psychotropic agents may be used, and psychotics should be cared for and supervised.
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Averbukh, E. S. Rasstroistva psikhicheskoi deiatel’nosti v pozdnem vozraste. Leningrad, 1969.
Mayer-Gross, W., E. Slater, and M. Roth. Clinical Psychiatry. London, 1955.
M. I. FORIANOV