Dementia is a health syndrome in which there is deterioration or loss in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform daily tasks or activities. Though dementia affects older people, it is not a regular part of ageing.
It is reported that around 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and that there are almost 10 million new cases every year. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases.
Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older persons. It has a physical, psychological, social, and economic impact - not only on people with dementia, but also on their careers, families and society in general.
Although dementia affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement, the human's consciousness is never affected.
Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease or stroke. Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. It can be overwhelming, not only for the people who have it, but also for their families. There is often a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, resulting in stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
Dementia affects different people in different ways, depending upon the impact of the disease and the person’s personality before becoming ill. The signs and symptoms linked to dementia can be understood in three stages, namely;
1. EARLY STAGE:
The early/first stage of dementia is not given attention - more like it is often overlooked, because the onset is gradual. Common symptoms include: forgetfulness, losing track of time, becoming lost in familiar places.
2. MIDDLE STAGE: As dementia progresses to the middle/second stage, the signs and symptoms become more clearer and evident. The signs include: forgetfulness of recent events and happenings, forgetting people's names, becoming lost at home, having increased difficulty in communication, needing help with personal care and behavioural changes.
3 LATE STAGE: The late/third stage of dementia that of near or total dependence plus inactivity, being unaware of times and places, heightened difficulty in recognizing relatives and friends.
Having examined the signs of dementia, we shall explore the common forms of dementia.
There are several forms of dementia. The most common form is Alzheimer's disease - which may contribute between 60–70% of the cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal aggregates of protein that develop inside nerve cells), and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia (degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain).
It is reported that an estimated proportion of the general population aged 60 and above with dementia at a given time, ranges between 5-8%. The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million by the year 2030 and 152 million in 2050. Scary right??
Anyway, much of this increase is attributed to the rising numbers of people with dementia living in low and middle-income countries.
TREATMENT - IS THERE A CURE?:
Sadly, there is no known treatment currently available to cure dementia, though several new treatments are being tested, trialed and investigated in various stages of clinical experiments.
However, a whole lot can be done to offer support and improve the lives of people with dementia. The principal goals for dementia care are:
1. Early diagnosis in order to promote rapid, fast and optimal management.
2. Optimizing physical health, cognition, activity and well-being.
3. Identifying and treating accompanying physical illnesses.
4. Detecting and treating challenging behavioural and psychological symptoms.
5. Providing information and long-term support.
CONCLUSION - RISK FACTORS AND PREVENTION:
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Furthermore, dementia does not exclusively affect older people – young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases.
Studies have also shown that people can reduce the risk of dementia by engaging in regular and periodic exercise routines, avoid smoking, less-excessive use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a balanced and healthy diet, maintaining a healthy blood pressure (which must be checked from time to time), regulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Additional risk factors include depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity.
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