Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome due to disease of the brain, usually of a chronic or progressive nature

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Dementia is the umbrella term for a range of progressive neurological disorders affecting brain functioning. Amongst these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Body disease, Parkinson’s-related dementia, Frontal Lobe dementia, HIV/Aids-related dementia, and others. There are more than 100 types of diseases that may cause dementia (ADI website).

Dementia is the umbrella term for a range of progressive neurological disorders affecting brain functioning. Amongst these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Body disease, Parkinson’s-related dementia, Frontal Lobe dementia, HIV/Aids-related dementia, and others. There are more than 100 types of diseases that may cause dementia (ADI website).

DEMENTIA

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According to the World Health Organisation in its International Classification of Diseases (2003), dementia is: “A syndrome due to disease of the brain, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, in which there is disturbance of multiple higher cortical functions, including memory, thinking, orientation, comprehensions, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement.

 

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

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Causes
Alzheimer’s damages and kills brain cells, ultimately shrinking the brain. The exact cause of it is uncertain, but it is believed to stem from a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.
There are also two hypotheses, which state that a build-up of protein in the brain called amyloid and Tau affect the supporting and transport system of brain cells, are responsible.

 

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

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  • Difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Forgetfulness and confusion as a result of attention and concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Repeating statements and questions
  • Misplacement of personal belongings
  • Disorientation
  • Forgetting names of family and friends
  • Agnosia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in mood, personality and behaviour, for example depression, irritability, emotional outbursts
  • Poor judgement
  • Difficulty writing and speaking

SKILLS THAT REMAIN VERY LATE

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he part of the brain that stores early childhood information, skills and habits tends to be affected later, delaying the degeneration of the below:
• Dancing
• Singing
• Story telling
• Crafting
• Hobbies
Focusing on these abilities can help maintain quality of life.

  1. Pre-dementia: Early symptoms, associated with memory loss, often mistaken for aging or stress
  2. Early dementia: Definitive diagnosis stage, with memory and learning compromised
  3. Moderate dementia: Progressive deterioration starts to hinder independence
  4. Advanced Dementia: Patient is completely dependent upon caregivers

 

DIAGNOSIS

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  • There is currently no specific test available to diagnose AD. Instead, the diagnosis is mainly clinical.
  • A medical history and behavioural observation is performed by a doctor.
  • Specialised scans and imaging may assist in ruling out other conditions.

 

RISK FACTORS

  • Age
  • Family history of AD
  • Having Down Syndrome
  • More common among females
  • Previous repetitive head trauma
  • An unhealthy lifestyle

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

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  • Studies show that long-term participation in activities and events that are mentally and socially stimulating may reduce the risk of AD.
  • A healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise are recommended.

TREATMENT

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Current treatment manages the symptoms of AD, such as:

  • Cognitive enhances
  • Cognition, behaviour and function
  • In some cases, additional medication may be required for insomnia, depression, agitation or anxiety.
  • Support through family, friends and groups

 

WHAT TO EXPECT

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Pneumonia, urinary tract infection and dehydration are the most common dangers. Individuals with AD are also more prone to falling and injuring themselves.
A calm and stable home environment can help reduce behavioural problems. Routine habits and reducing memory-demanding tasks can also make life much easier. Hence, the following are suggested:

  • Always keep your valuables, such as your phone and wallet, in the same place at home
  • Keep a list of your daily tasks and appointments, and tick them off as they have been completed
  • Remove clutter from your space
  • Ask your doctor to keep your treatment regime as simple as possible
  • Schedule regular appointments for the same day, same time and same location
  • Activate the location application on your phone in case you get lost
  • Automate regular monthly payments as far as possible
  • Keep photographs and familiar items visible in your home
  • Wear well-fitting shoes with an adequate grip and install handrails in the bathroom and along staircases
  • Set reminders to intake fluids regularly

Please Note: This is an educational information leaflet only and should not be used for diagnosis.
For more information on dementia, consult your healthcare professional.




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