Predisposing factors to dementia are a wide range of mental disorders that have gone unresolved throughout life
By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande
This week on The Sunday Express the topic is dementia. The word: Dementia is an umbrella term for brain diseases that cause physical damage to the organ and therefore a cluster of symptoms, especially in old age but recently, dementias have been detected in younger age groups not previously known to have dementia.
The damage caused depends on the nature and activities of the individual.
The elderly often struggle with various health problems, but in particular the problems associated with dementia affect the following areas: Orientation: Registration Attention and calculation Recall Language, in particular poor short-term memory, concentration, mobility, and coordination.
The brain is also the main organ in the human body that secretes critical hormones and when this is damaged, the implications are extensive.
A person with dementia can have different parts of their brain affected, while others remain intact, but over time, the damage tends to spread to other brain centres.
While some of the dementia symptoms are also known to occur in other problems as urinary tract infections, it is important to rule these out before assessing for dementia.
Assessment of dementia is conducted on 2 phases; the first one is through a tool called the MMSE or Addenbrookes, after which indication is given for a CT scan on the dead to examine the physical aspects on the brain.
There are different types of dementias:
– Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
– Lewy Body Dementia
– Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease
– Frontotemporal Dementia
– Huntington’s Disease
– Mixed Dementia
– Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
– Posterior Cortical Atrophy
– Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
– Vascular Dementia
– Korsakoff Syndrome
– HIV/AIDS Dementia
Key components of dementia are Memory, Disorientation, Confusion, and Pain. The Statistics show that dementia cases are on the rise, mirroring the increase of mental health presentations and disability.
There are various causes for the brain damage in respective types of dementia that include, alcohol misuse, aneurysms caused by the weakening of veins and or blockages on the veins in the brain by fatty tissue or blood clot that cause mini strokes.
Prolonged neglect of the brain organ and not taking time to address mental health issues throughout life also contributes to the decline.
While the individuals may have managed to successfully distract themselves with work and whatever other activities.
In old age, these opportunities are limited and minimised, thereby leaving the individuals with a lot of time to ruminate over the unresolved issues.
This leads to hypertension that causes bursts in the veins in the brains, known as aneurysms.
The more one has these, the more they struggle and the quicker they deteriorate.
Predisposing factors to dementia are a wide range of mental disorders that have gone unresolved throughout life. The long-term effects of the abuse or misuse of the organ over time is the core contributor to dementias.
This is especially where they have not been explored extensively through psychosocial interventions, but sought to numb the pain through substances, either prescribed or illicit over time.
Essentially, dementia is a product of systematic damage of the brain organ and tissue over time. It is unclear as to the emergence of dementia in younger age groups for the most part, further research is required in this area.
Human cells are naturally able to replicate and self-repair in the youths, but these processes are much slower in old age.
Poor understanding of dementias lead to poor care of those made vulnerable by this disease, as it increases risk of harm/ exploitation from others also associated with accusations of witchcraft and persecution in the African communities due to held beliefs and extensive superstition in the occult.
The confused individual thereby becomes more harassed by the community. Risk issues range from Physical abuse, sexual exploitation, financial abuse, neglect, highlight the need for safeguarding of vulnerable adults.
COVID-19 is also known to have had a severe impact on this vulnerable group where the isolation and their already volatile immune systems increased their vulnerability.
The associated confusion causes those with dementia to be vulnerable to abuse, where they may make ill-informed decisions due to poor concentration and limited mental capacity that is found in most people with dementia.
The core symptoms of dementia lead to falls and injuries and infections as most become unable to communicate to express their needs due to the confusion caused by this disease.
This also affects the passing down of historic information between generations. co-ordination and communication.
Remedies and recommendations
Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging. Prevention is always better than cure, and for dementias, knowing the causes and addressing mental issues throughout life is crucial, alongside utilising neurorehabilitation for any head traumas. If one already has dementia, crucial intervention includes having people around that understand dementia and have the patience and expertise to support the individual.
The reduced capacity requires systematic safeguarding measures in place to prevent abuse.
While Dementias are currently not treatable, or reversible, there are medications that can be used to slow down this process especially if identified and diagnosed early.
Communicating with someone with dementia is also a critical component to reducing their distress and frustrations. This may be complemented by reminders of the memories of families, earlier lives and help to process and unblock difficult moments with gentle interventions like music and aromatherapy.
Advanced stages of dementia may simply require providing a good quality of life in their deterioration. Dementias can affect us all in our old age as we are all headed in that direction.
Let us make an effort to improve the awareness and care provision for us all.
Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Contact him at Insightwellbeing.firstname.lastname@example.org
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