As part of the efforts to raise awareness about dementia, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has shared tips about the disease and the ways to deal with it.
Dr Shafi Khan, geriatric fellowship programme director and deputy chairman of geriatrics and long term care at HMC, said there is a need to make the public and other stakeholders aware of dementia and educate them about the proper ways to deal with the patients.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs memory and other mental functions. It is the most common form of dementia that generalises memory loss and loss of other essential cognitive abilities that are serious enough to interfere with an individual’s daily life.
“Dementia affects memory and orientation. It results in mood changes and confusion and eventually leads to problems that affect the day to day activities of the person. Persons with dementia become dependent on caregivers,” the HMC physician said.
“Human brain is made up of nerve cells that communicate with each other by sending messages. Dementia causes damage to the nerve cells leading to messages not being effectively sent. And this affects the proper function of the brain. If the area that’s linked to speech is affected it causes speech impairments while vision impairment is generated while the disease affects the area that’s linked with vision,” Dr Shafi Khan said. According to him, the disease most commonly affects people with age over 65 years and the global prevalence of dementia is 5-8%.
“There are over 200 subtypes and causes of dementia but two most common causes are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular causes such HTN, OM, Hyperlipidemia,” he said. While referring to the common symptoms he said persons with dementia struggle to remember recent events, forget names of friends or everyday objects, repeating things and struggle to follow conversations. “Besides, they face problems with thinking or reasoning and feel confused even when in a familiar environment,” he said adding that this condition further leads to frustration and agitation.
While sharing the tips about dementia diagnosis, the physician said careful comprehensive memory tests and assessments that are carried out by an occupational therapist along with trained dementia expert physicians geriatricians and old age psychiatrists will help dementia to be detected.
“Diagnosing dementia can be difficult in the early stages. And the common challenge being faced by the doctors is the presentation of the patient to the clinic in advanced stages. This occurs due to people’s misconception that these symptoms could be due to old age,” he said and added dementia treatment includes non-pharmacological strategies to increase memory in addition to few medications.
“The treatment focuses on maintaining the function, improving cognition and ensuring adequate safety provision of appropriate support to the caregiver,” he said and added agitation, aggression and restlessness of patients can be challenging for caregivers to manage.
“These can be distressing to both people suffering from dementia and those who take care of them. Patients may experience problems communicating and may struggle to express there preferences and needs. If these are understood and responded appropriately, the quality of life and caring significantly improves. The best way to overcome this challenge is to provide caregivers and staff with quality training in dementia,” he said. Dr Shafi Khan, while sharing prevention tips, said abstaining from smoking, keeping a healthy weight, getting engaged in plenty of exercises, eating healthy food, managing health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, staying mentally alert by engaging in new hobbies, reading, solving crossword puzzles and social interaction can prevent dementia.