What is Korsakoff's syndrome?

Home Instead as a commitment to the Dementia Action Alliance in Sheffield delivers free workshops to family members looking to gain some further knowledge about dementia. The workshops are fantastic for giving family members an opportunity to ask questions and talk about their own personal experiences with regards to caring for someone with the disease. 

At one of our recent workshops we spoke about the various different types of dementia's that can occur, yet one of them was unrecognised by anyone in attendance. According to the Alzheimer's Society it is not strictly a dementia, but Korsakoff syndrome is potentially one of the saddest brain disorders that can develop.

What causes Korsakoff’s syndrome?

Korsakoff’s syndrome is considered quite different in comparison with other dementias. It is impacted heavily by lifestyle choices, and mainly occurs as a result of drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Now for a bit of biology (sorry).

Vitamin B1 also known as Thiamine influences brain and nervous system function however regular consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol can make someone Thiamine deficient. 1 in 8 people with a history of Alcohol abuse or with alcoholism develop Korsakoff's syndrome.

How does Korsakoff’s syndrome develop?

A person may experience loss of weight due to under nutrition and bad eating habits associated with alcoholism. As well as this they may also experience poor balance/coordination, disorientation, confusion and mild memory loss.

The Symptoms later on

This brain disorder can severely affect short term memory which can make it challenging to acquire and learn new information or skills. A person with Korsakoff’s syndrome may invent events that didn’t occur to compensate for gaps in memory, they may also believe that there memory is functioning normally. Drastic personality changes can also arise whereby a person may appear more apathetic

The disorder is a saddening one, as many people dealing with years of alcohol abuse may have pushed those who are closest away, prior to the disorder even developing. They can be left isolated due to this and may find it difficult to recover. Home Instead has supported people with this disorder in the past, and the companionship provided by us has made a real difference in giving people back their independence and their lives.

More information about Korsakoff’s syndrome can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society website. Anyone who would like further information about our next Dementia workshop in Sheffield, please click here.

A group of Home Instead CAREGivers talking
Family welcoming a Home Instead care manager into their home