September marks World Alzheimer's Month. Organizations and communities around the globe come together this month to raise awareness of Dementia, patients who suffer from the condition and also caregivers.
‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’ is the theme for this year's global campaign.
Dementia is an illness caused by damage to the brain. When a certain type of cells in the brain die no such similar cells are grown again. Damages occur in the brain in this way causing loss of memory, and the affected person won't be able to remember, think and do things properly. People aged above 65 years are more likely to get affected by dementia.
Some of the warning signs of dementia are memory loss, difficulty in performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time & place, poor or decreased judgement, problems in keeping track of things, misplacing items, changes in mood and behaviour, difficulty in comprehending visual and spatial details and isolation, to name a few.
The person might feel lonely, angry or confused. They might act differently, repeat themselves, shout or walk around.
Dementia cannot be prevented. But there are certain things that people can follow to delay the onset of the condition. Doing things that give joy, regular exercise, staying away from tobacco, drugs and alcohol, consuming healthy food, seeing family and friends, having regular physical health check-ups can be helpful in keeping the illness away to a certain extent.
Communicating with persons affected by dementia requires special skill and care. Get their attention softly, make sure they understand our gestures and be patient. Speak slow, be calm and try to make an eye-contact while involving them in a conversation. If a person with dementia needs glasses or hearing a aid remind them to use it. Prompt them to use calendars and notes, which can help them remember and find things.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady decline in the diagnosis of dementia. Timely diagnosis is the first step toward dementia care. Taking prescribed medication and following medical advice also help maintain mental health. Support for people living with dementia-affected persons and their caregivers is equally important. This is to help the patients live and cope well with their families.
(Dr Sheeba Ninan is Senior Consultant, Departement of Geriatric Psychiatry, Meitra Hospital, Kozhikode; General Secretary, Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), Kozhikode Chapter, Kerala and member-faculty of Old Age, Royal College of Psychiatry, UK.)