I keep forgetting things, am I having dementia?

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Dementia is a generic term that is used to describe a range of symptoms associated with cognitive and behavioural impairment. Cognitive includes thinking, remembering, and reasoning. The symptoms include memory loss, language impairment, visual perception, poor problem solving, difficulty in acquiring new information, poor judgement, poor reasoning, inability to self-manage, inability to focus and pay attention. 

Dementia in elderly

Some demented people cannot control their emotions, and some may encounter personality or behavioural change. Dementia could affect your social life and relationships with family.

 

Trends & Statistics

There are about 50 million people having dementia worldwide. By 2030, this figure may reach 78 million, that works out to be a 4% increase annually. Statistically, this condition is more prominent in adults above the age of 65, however, the trend is shifting toward the younger adults. Early onset can manifest as early as 40s, these cohorts may suffer greater impacts on financial, social and family as they struggle with self-esteem, emotion, behavioural and lifestyle changes.

 

Assessment and Diagnosis

3 common methods of assessment: 
• Medical history
• Physical exam
• Neurological tests 

 

Other medical professionals may also use cognitive and neuropsychological tests, laboratory tests, brain scans, psychiatric evaluation, and genetic tests, depending on the severity and availability of technologies at the facility. 

 

Over the years, there are many variations of quality of life (QoL) assessment tools being introduced to measure the implication of dementia on QoL, such as Dementia Quality of Life (DQoL), Quality of Life-Alzheimer’s Disease (QOL-AD), Dementia Care Mapping (DCM), Geriatric Quality of Life-Dementia (GQOL-D). To date, there is no single best tool in the sector. The application is often depending on the competency of the specialist and stages of dementia.

 

Even though there is no cure available for Alzheimer’s and other common dementias, early diagnosis can help you and your family make plans for the future.

 

2 Categories of dementia

Common types

  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia

Rare types

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH)
  • Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA)
  • Niemann-Pick Disease Type C
  • Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD)
  • HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND)
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (PDD)

4 Stages of dementia

Stage 1: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
  • Losing things sometimes, mild forgetfulness, having trouble coming up with words.
Stage 2: Mild Dementia
  • Still be able to function independently.
  • Memory loss of recent events, getting lost or misplacing objects, personality changes, difficulty with problem-solving and complex tasks, such as managing finances, trouble organising or expressing thoughts.
Stage 3: Moderate Dementia
  • Need assistance in performing regular daily activities and self-care.
  • Increasing confusion, poor judgment, greater memory loss, significant personality, emotion and behaviour changes, changes in sleep patterns.
Stage 4: Severe Dementia
  • Further mental decline and deterioration of physical capabilities.
  • Need full time assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).
  • Loss of the ability to communicate, loss of physical capabilities (walking, sitting, holding head up, swallowing, controlling bladder and bowel functions), increased susceptibility to infections, such as pneumonia.

Living with dementia

Treatment is depending on its causes and types. With progressive dementias (including Alzheimer’s disease), there is no treatment that slows its progression. But there are drugs that may temporarily manage the symptoms such as cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine, antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotic medicines.

 

The most commonly mentioned herbal medicine is ginkgo biloba, an extract taken from the leaves of the ginkgo tree. This extract is rich in antioxidants and is commonly used in improving a wide range of bodily functions, from circulation to mental function. I will share more information on diet for dementia in the future.

 

Apart from medicines and diet, therapies, lifestyle, social and family supports also play important roles. These include reminiscence therapy, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST), reality orientation training, active lifestyle, sufficient sleep, brain training, etc.

 

What you can do if there is still time?

To date, there are no hard and fast rules in the prevention of dementia, but studies show that certain activities, if performed less, there is an increased risk. To reduce your risk, there are 2 things for you to take note (care).

Healthy body

  • Keep a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep and rest well
  • Stay away from smoking, alcohol, and drug

Healthy mind

  • Manage stress and mood
  • Stimulate your brain
  • Stay socially active
  • Keep a diary
  • Be open to learn new things
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