Imagine waking up one day and you cannot remember anything, speak, or move. You remain with nothing but to fall into deep confusion. That is a brief of what dementia can do to the human brain. It does not render one unconscious but many wish they were. On a brighter side, worry not because this kind of disability mainly affects older people.
What is Dementia
The World Health Organization defines dementia as a syndrome with deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities.
Other sources define it as a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions such as memory loss and judgement.
Dementia affects memory, thinking, comprehension, learning capacity, orientation, language, and judgement. The elderly are prone to it; thus making dementia a major cause of disability and dependency among them. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and may contribute up to 70% of cases.
Symptoms of Dementia
Symptoms of dementia vary for each person, however, at least two of the core mental functions listed below must be significantly impaired to qualify as dementia:
- Reasoning and judgment
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Communication and language
- Visual perception
An individual with this condition also experiences certain psychological changes, these include:
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells which interferes with their ability to communicate with each other. When brain cells are unable to interconnect normally behavior, thinking, and feelings can be affected. The brain consists of different regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (i.e. memory, judgment, and movement). Therefore, when cells in a specific region are damaged, that region fails to carry out its functions normally.
Various types of dementia are grouped according to what they have in common, from the protein type deposited in the brain, to the part of the brain that is affected. Additionally, some types of dementia progress and are not reversible They include:
- disease, which is the most common type of dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Mixed dementia
Challenges Persons with Dementia Face
Problems in managing finances and using the bank – Due to memory loss which is usually noticeable on the on-set of dementia, an individual with dementia may forget his/her banking PIN or even the amount received, spent, or kept in the bank. Without help, he/she may lose the money or even forget it exists.
Remedy for this challenge may be having banks implement the voice recognition technology which may serve this group of PWDs effectively instead of having to constantly memorize PIN.
Difficulty in maintaining an interactive lifestyle – People with dementia are often passive and do not want to interact with others. Some even choose to isolate themselves and avoid any form of interactions with the environment. This is not good as failure to engage their minds may lead to apathy and anxiety.
To get rid of this challenge, caregivers should introduce methods to ensure there is cognitive stimulation and promote physical movement and conversation.
Loosing physical direction – It is common to find a person with dementia lost often, because of their inability to trace and remember direction. Getting lost makes them suffer anxiety and fear which is not good for their condition.
To help curb this, family, friends, or caregivers of persons with dementia may embrace the use of new technology by having their loved ones carry trackers to help locate them. Walking and taking strolls for fresh air is good for the body and the modern GPS technology may provide a safe and secure way for caregivers to look out for their loved ones with dementia who are still capable of going out alone.
Loosing self-esteem – Dementia may progress and reach a stage where one can no longer communicate through language, and this often kills their urge to interact with others. As a result, their relationships with family and friends will be affected. Inability to communicate normally as they used to may even kill their self-esteem.
To prevent loss of self-esteem, studies show that music used as a therapeutic stimulus allows for self-expression and reconnection with one’s past. Singing groups can be helpful in giving the PWDs a chance to be valued and heard, hence fostering bonds with others.
Call to Action
It would not be a surprise to hear of cases where persons with dementia have been mishandled, harassed, or even taken advantage of. It is barely a week since a healthcare worker in Texas was sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a 74-year old patient with dementia. Fox News reported that the elderly and disabled patient was assaulted last year at a nursing home, where she was receiving care for she was unable to speak or move.
What then can we do to restore humanity, especially when it comes to taking care of persons with disabilities who are unable to defend and tend for themselves? How can we protect them from ill-minded caregivers whom we trust to make their lives easier and more comfortable? This does not only apply for persons with dementia but all sorts and types of disabilities.
By: Linzer Kibebe