Ever heard of a health problem called “Dementia”?

Ever heard of a health problem called "Dementia"?

While most people look forward to reaching old age, seeing it as a reward for a long, well lived life, that time of life also comes with a lot of problems, especially health related ones. These range from reduced physical strength to more serious health challenges such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even dementia. While the latter is one of those ailments that exists in our communities, there is however, very little awareness or information about it. Health experts believe that dementia is one of the biggest public health challenges facing the world in the 21st century and more awareness about the disease is needed to tackle it. Dementia is not a disease. It is a group of symptoms that can be caused by brain damage. Dementia often occurs in older people. However, it is not related to normal aging. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, in which there is deterioration in cognitive function. This deterioration can be caused by a number of brain disorders or injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke. Dementia affects higher cortical functions such as memory, thinking, comprehension and judgment. This impairment is commonly accompanied by a decline in emotional control, social behavior, or motivation. (Rhiannon George-Carey, Davies Adeloye…et al. Global Health Journal, 2012).
Dementia makes it hard for people to remember, learn, and communicate. It may cause changes in mood and personality, such as depression. Early on, memory lapses and foggy thinking may bother someone who has dementia. Later, disruptive behavior and other problems can create a burden for caregivers and family. Over time, these changes make it hard for people who have dementia to care for themselves. Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.
The overall prevalence of dementia in adults older than 50 years in Africa was estimated to be about 2.4%, which translates to 2.76 million people living with a disease in 2010. About 2.10 millions of them live in Sub Saharan Africa. Prevalence was the highest among females aged 80 and over (19.7%) and there was little variation between regions. Alzheimer disease was the most prevalent cause of dementia (57.1%) followed by vascular dementia (26.9%). The main risk factors were increasing age, female sex and cardiovascular disease. (Rhiannon George-Carey, Davies Adeloye…et al. An estimation of prevalence of dementia in Africa, Global Health Journal, 2012).
The term dementia refers to a group of syndromes characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive function. Over 200 subtypes have been defined. The main sub-types of dementia include Alzheimer’s Disease(AD),Vascular Dementia (VaD),Dementia with Lewy Bodies(DLB),fronto-temporal dementia, and Mixed Dementias. Other sub-types include Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, Alcohol Related Dementia, Huntington’s Disease and Prion Disease(includes Classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). Identification of dementia sub-type is important because different types of dementia will have different courses, with different patterns of symptoms, and can respond differently to treatments.
Symptoms of dementia may appear over time or all at once. Memory loss is the main symptom. If you have this and two or more symptoms listed below, you may have dementia.
Recent memory loss. It is common to forget things for a while and then remember them later. People who have dementia often forget things, but never remember them. They may cook a meal but forget to serve it. They might even forget that they cooked it.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People who have dementia may struggle with simple things, like getting dressed. They may wake up and get dressed, then hours later get dressed again. They may forget how to tie their shoes or that milk needs to be refrigerated.
Problems with language. People who have dementia may forget simple words or use the wrong words. This makes it hard for them to communicate and hard for others to know what they need.
Time and place. People who have dementia may get lost on their own street. They may forget how they got to a certain place or how to get back home.
Being absent-minded. Everyone gets distracted at times. People who have dementia can forget simple things. Examples are not putting on a coat before going outside or not using an umbrella when it rains.
Problems with abstract thinking. Anyone could have trouble balancing a checkbook. People who have dementia may forget what the numbers are and what to do with them.
Misplacing things. People who have dementia may put things in unusual places. They might put an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. When they can’t find the things, they may get upset or accuse others of stealing.
Personality changes. People who have dementia may have drastic changes in personality. They might become irritable, suspicious, fearful, or depressed.
Changes in mood. Everyone is moody at times, but people who have dementia can have sudden mood swings. They may go from calm to tears to anger in a few minutes.
There is no cure for dementia. People who have dementia should learn how to manage symptoms. Dementia is hard for the people who have it, as well as the people who love them. It is important for family to learn about the condition and help their loved one. This may include visiting more, helping out, hiring medical care, or switching residences. People who have dementia may become agitated for various reasons. Examples are frustrating or stressful situations, or a sudden change in surroundings. Simple things such as getting dressed or not remembering can lead to frustration. It is possible that a person who is irritable may try to hurt themselves or others. Try to avoid things or places in which your loved one might become frustrated. Try to make your loved one’s tasks less difficult. You also can try to limit the number of difficult situations your loved one must face. For example, if taking a bath or shower causes problems, have them take one every other day instead of every day. Or you can schedule difficult tasks for a time of day when your loved one tends to be less agitated. It’s helpful to give frequent reassurance and avoid challenging them. Some people who have dementia may have hallucinations. These can be scary or upsetting. Try to distract the person by involving them in a pleasant activity. It is best not to argue or fight with them when they are hallucinating.
Prevention as a normal phenomenon is known to be much more better than cure. It is very imperative for every individual in the society to live a healthy lifestyles to avoid all these chronic illnesses that deprives longevity and sound health. Primary preventive intervention is a highly effective. Effective interventions could significantly reduce dementia prevalence and incidence, improve the quality of life of patients and carers, and reduce the resources needed to provide adequate institutional and home health care.

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