A couple of articles ago, we had an opportunity to look at some mental health issues that children experience.
In our next set of articles, we will look at mental health issues the old may experience.
To kick start this series, we will look at dementia, which is a term used by professionals to describe a group of symptoms that may affect memory, thinking and social abilities, severely enough to interfere with one’s daily life.
We must understand that dementia is not a specific disease, but several diseases can cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, which is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions, and considered one of the most common causes of dementia.
Dementia is said to cause a deterioration in cognitive functioning (which is a broad term that describes one’s ability to use their brain or have common sense), beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing.
Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not something that will always happen as one grows older.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that up-to 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and that there are nearly 10 million new cases every year and there studies further show that it is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
Dementia has physical, psychological, social and economic impacts, not only for people living with dementia, but also for their care givers, family and society at large.
The lack of awareness and basic understanding of dementia has continued to result into stigmatisation of those who may have it and these further barriers the diagnosis of the condition, preventing individuals from having access to the professional help that they may need.
Dementia affects each person differently, depending on the underlying cause, as well as other health conditions and the persons cognitive functioning before becoming ill.
The signs and symptoms of dementia can be understood in three stages.
The first stage is referred to as the early stage of dementia, and it is often overlooked because the onset is gradual.
Common symptoms may include;- forgetfulness, losing track of time , becoming lost in familiar places.
The second stage is referred to as the middle stage and as the dementia progresses to this stage, the signs and symptoms become even more clearer and may include;- becoming forgetful of recent events , and forgetting people’s name’s, becoming confused while at home, having an increased difficulty with communication, needing help with personal care, experiencing behaviour changes , including wandering and repeated questioning.
The third stage, of referred to as the late stage of dementia and is one of near total dependence and inactivity.
Memory disturbances are serious and the physical signs and symptoms become more obvious and may include;- becoming unaware of the time and place, having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends , having an increased need for assisted self-care, having difficulty walking, experiencing behaviour changes that may escalate and include aggression.
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of biological ageing. Further dementia does not exclusively affect older people –young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 accounts for up-to nine per cent of cases, as per the WHO statistics.
There is no treatment available to cure dementia.
Anti-dementia medicines and disease-modifying therapies developed to date have limited effect and are primarily labelled foe Alzheimer’s disease, though numerous new treatments are being invested in various stages of clinical trials.
However, much can be offered to support and improve the lives of people with dementia and their carer’s and families.
The principal goals for dementia care include early diagnosis in order to promote early and effective management, prioritising physical health, cognition, activity and well-being, identifying and treating accompanying physical illness, understanding and managing behaviour changes as well as providing information and long-term support to care-givers.