Dementia is a neuro-degenerative condition, which results in the loss of brain cells and impacts almost everything; from loss of memory to difficulty in concentrating and planning. In fact, loss of language abilities is also one of the symptoms, says Dr Jayashree Dasgupta, a clinical psychologist in conversation with The Better India.
“There could come a time when the patient deteriorates and becomes dependent for all daily living activities,” continues Dr. Dasgupta, who also co-founded Samvedna Senior Care, a geriatric care and healthy-aging centre based in Gurugram.
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In India, more than 4 million people are estimated to be suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, giving the country the third highest caseload in the world, after China and the US. India’s dementia and Alzheimer’s burden is forecast to reach almost 7.5 million by the end of 2030.
Very often family members confuse the symptoms of Dementia for regular issues that accompany aging. Hence, the symptoms go uninvestigated. Dr Dasgupta informs us that forgetfulness, confusion, word finding difficulties, substituting one word for another are all probable signs that must be looked into.
She goes on to say, “This condition, unfortunately, does not have any cure, and it keeps progressing and sometimes for a fairly long period of time, which could even be for 10 years.”
Is Alzheimer’s the same as Dementia?
Throwing light on this, Dr Dasgupta says, “Alzheimer’s is a kind of dementia; and depending on the research you read you will find that there are almost 100 different kinds of Dementia. Alzheimer’s is one of the most commonly known ones, and is also one of the first to be found to be a disorder. So while not all Dementia is Alzheimer’s, it is a type of Dementia.”
Age is the biggest risk factor of dementia, says Dr Dasgupta and vulnerable age group is roughly above the age of 55 to 60. Some forms of early on-set of dementia can also affect those who are in their mid-40’s. With increasing age, the chances of getting dementia increases as well.
While age and gene related dementia cannot be changed, one can adopt a healthy lifestyle to ensure that dementia is kept at bay.
What are the early signs one must look out for?
Please remember that everyone forgets once in a while, and that is not a symptom to watch out for. For instance, you might forget where you have left your car keys, but the differentiating factor is when you forget that you have forgotten something, says Dr Dasgupta.
Citing an example, Dr Dasgupta says, “One might forget having to attend a social function, and not even seem flustered about it or forget that a meal has been consumed.”
People with dementia might be extremely confused about their surroundings or where they are. For example, even though one might be visiting a store on a regular basis, Dr Dasgupta informs that they have had clients being lost who had to be brought home by neighbours. Another common occurrence is the lack of time sense. Patients might wake up at 3 AM and start getting ready, brushing and bathing because they feel it’s early morning.
Difficulty performing daily tasks
Persons with dementia might find performing daily tasks a challenge. For example, if you have been watering your plants on a regular basis and suddenly, just don’t seem to understand how to do it that could be a pointer. Even not understanding how an AC or television remote works can become a difficult task for a person with dementia.
Dr Dasgupta says that even though there is no cure for dementia, enough research points to the fact that the risk factors can be controlled. Therefore being cognisant of the symptoms and taking action earlier on and having it detected can help the patient prolong the deterioration process.
Common myths about Dementia busted:
1. Dementia is just a normal part of aging – Absolutely not. It is a neuro-degenerative disease and not every person above the age of 60 gets it.
2. Nothing can be done because there is no cure – While there are no medicines to treat dementia, psychosocial intervention can help improve the standard of life.
3. All Dementia is Alzheimer’s – As mentioned earlier, Dementia has about a 100 known types and Alzheimer’s is just one amongst them.
4. All Dementia is progressive – Which is also not true, there are some kinds of Dementia caused by the deficiency of Vitamin B12, which, if corrected, can reverse Dementia.
5. Medicines is the only way to treat Dementia – While medicines will help to a certain degree, the rest of the treatment is based on psychosocial intervention and must be included in a patient’s routine.
“While there is now a growing awareness about Dementia, there is still a huge gap in what is known and that needs to change. The biggest challenge is the denial that patients and family members deal with,” concludes Dr Dasgupta.
If you are a Delhi/NCR resident then please note that every Wednesday between 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. at the Charak Palika Hospital in Moti Bagh, a free 20-minute screening is conducted for senior citizens.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
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