Dementia is a group of symptoms that affect memory, mental abilities, language, behaviour, and the capacity to perform daily chores. It is not just a simple loss of memory. The most prevalent type of dementia is Alzheimer’s, a particular type of brain illness. The distinction is in the illness’s actual characteristics: Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by aberrant proteins that build plaques inside and between neurons, killing the neurons and causing brain shrinkage in the process, especially in the hippocampus. Contrarily, fronto-temporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and vascular dementia are other common types of dementia. The issue is valid given that neurological disorders like dementia rank as the sixth most common cause of disability in Singapore. Singapore’s 2015 Institute of Mental Health study found that one in 10 individuals aged 60 and over is affected by dementia. This number is projected to grow exponentially, expected to reach 152,000 by 2030.
Key Risk Factors and Genetic Concerns
The fight against dementia has seen a glimmer of hope. Recent research indicates that 12 risk factors account for about 40% of worldwide dementias. These factors are:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Hearing impairment
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Physical inactivity
- Low social contact
- Less education
- Air pollution
Moreover, genetics plays a role, especially for those with familial ties to the disease. However, it’s reassuring to note that genetic inheritance is low, less than 5%, if a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s beyond 65 years old. Nonetheless, understanding the genetic link helps in strategizing prevention and care.
World Alzheimer’s Day: Significance and Global Impact
September 21st marks World Alzheimer’s Day, highlighting the growing concern of dementia worldwide. The Alzheimer’s Society reveals startling statistics: over 55 million people globally are living with dementia as of 2020. In India alone, dementia affects about 53 lakh people, accounting for 5-7% of the elderly population. The symptoms of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s, gradually intensify. The onset is usually subtle with short-term memory loss, but as the disease progresses, patients can lose the ability to talk, walk, recognize loved ones, and require complete care.
Early dementia detection has a number of advantages. Early diagnosis enables patients to comprehend their condition, foresee care requirements, and make essential financial and legal decisions while they still have the mental capacity to do so. Early intervention and mental stimulation can decrease the disease’s course and enhance both the patient’s and their carers’ quality of life. To provide cognitive training and stimulation to dementia sufferers, a number of methods, such as cognitive stimulation therapy and mobile apps, are being created. Unfortunately, despite diligent study, there is still no complete treatment for dementia.
Caregiving: A Vital Role in Dementia Management
Dementia management is not a simple task. Patients’ care needs increase as the condition worsens, thus putting a heavy burden on carers. Being a carer requires a high level of care and communication. In addition to ensuring personal hygiene, prompt medicine administration, and participation in consoling activities, carers offer crucial assistance. Carer education and assistance should never stop. Given the rigorous nature of their job, they should have the resources and equipment necessary to provide quality care in addition to taking regular breaks. There are medications that slow the development of dementia, and researchers are continually looking for additional effective treatments.
Prevention: Lifestyle Choices Matter
Our best line of defence against dementia, up until a permanent cure is discovered, is risk factor management. The risk of dementia can be significantly decreased by adopting a better lifestyle that includes regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight, quitting smoking, and managing depression. Regular social engagement and practises like yoga and meditation can also be protective.
Particularly, Alzheimer’s disease is a major global problem. Awareness, understanding, early detection, and intervention are crucial for managing the condition and ensuring a greater standard of living for patients and their caretakers. On World Alzheimer’s Day and every day, it is critical to raise awareness, offer assistance, and work towards a future free from dementia.