September is World Dementia Awareness month. This year, the theme is know dementia, know Alzheimer’s with focus on diagnosis, the warning signs of dementia and the continued effect of COVID-19 on the global dementia community. In this article we look at the signs of dementia, common forms, treatment and care and some preventive measures.
What is Dementia?
According to the World Health Organization, Dementia is a syndrome that leads to degeneration of cognitive function beyond what is expected from ageing. It has also been described as a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.Statistics show that there are about 55 million cases of Dementia worldwide and about 10 million new cases are recorded every year. Dementia is most common among older people and is mostly caused by injuries or diseases that affect the brain. Dementia can also occur after alcohol use, or stroke, infections like HIV and nutritional deficiencies. Research has also shown that Dementia is the seventh cause of death and one of the leading causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, other forms are vascular dementia and dementia with lewy bodies.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
Symptoms are often classified in three stages:
Early stage dementia signs and symptoms
- Losing track of time
- Getting lost in familiar places
Middle stage signs and symptoms
- Forgetting recent events, sometimes even people’s names
- Difficulties with communication
- Behaviour changes including wandering
Last stages signs and symptoms
- Difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
- Difficulty walking
- Need for help with self-care
- Loosing awareness of place and time
- Behaviour changes that can include aggression
READ ALSO: Caring for a loved one who has dementia
Treatment and Care
There is no cure for dementia and the condition can only be managed through support and care offered to patients. Care includes:
- Early diagnosis for easy management
- Managing behaviour changes
- Treating and managing any accompanying illnesses
- Monitoring food and fluid intake and elimination
- Managing own emotions when taking care of a patient regardless of how they respond
- Some therapies like music therapy have been shown to help with communication
Dementia is a challenging condition to deal with both for the patient and the care-giver. While it is common among older people, it is also not inevitable. Certain life style changes like avoiding smoking and alcohol use,physical activity, healthy diet, mantaining a healthy body weight and watching cholesterol and blood sugar levels can reduce the cognitive decline associated with dementia.
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