Alzheimer: The Way Forward

Concept

Key Facts on Dementia. Source

Alzheimer is neurological disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive state of health wherein symptoms develop with time creating dysfunction in the activities of daily living (ADL). This is the most common form of dementia accounting for 60-80 % of dementia cases.

There were an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015 and this number is believed to be close to 50 million people in 2017. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.

According to statistics, someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds.

Much of the increase will be in developing countries. Already 58% of people with dementia live in low and middle income countries, but by 2050 this will rise to 68%. The fastest growth in the elderly population is taking place in China, India, and their south Asian and western Pacific neighbours.

Causes

While there is no known cause for Alzheimer’s disease, some research studies have indicated that the following factors may play an important role in the development of the condition:

  • Genetic factors, such as the presence of, or changes to, certain genes
  • Environmental factors, such as long-term exposure to some environmental solvents (eg: pesticides, glues and paints) or infection with certain viruses or bacteria
  • Lifestyle factors, such as a lack of exercise, poor-quality sleep and a diet lacking fruit and vegetables.

Researchers now believe that a combination of these lifestyle, environmental and genetic risk factors trigger an abnormal biological process in the brain that, over decades, results in Alzheimer-type dementia.

Risk factors

Non modifiable

  • age +65
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • genetics

Modifiable

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • head trauma
  • exercise
  • nutrition
  • education

Importance of early Diagnosis

  • early diagnosis allows people with dementia and their families to receive timely practical information, advice and support
  • early therapeutic interventions aid in improving cognitive function, treating depression, improving caregiver mood and reducing institutionalization
  • serves as an opportunity for the individual to get accustomed to the diagnosis and plan for the future.
  • reduces unnecessary accidents, medication errors and financial difficulties.

Possible interventions

As there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and supporting the person and their family. However, the following factors could be taken into consideration:

  • exercise (aerobic, endurance, strength training balance, flexibility training)
  • caregiver training in behavior management
  • cognitive exercises for example providing memory aids and memory triggers such as calendars and written reminders
  • cognitive-behavioural therapies: encouraging stimulating activities in order to encourage the person to continue their normal activities as much as possible
  • reality orientation: encouraging social interaction to help prevent feelings of depression and loneliness
  • nutritional intervention
  • recreational and social therapies such as centres for memory, practical workshops, coffee Alzheimer where family members and caregivers could meet and share their experiences
  • treating medical conditions that may facilitate confusion or physical decline

 

Alzheimer: The Way Forward was written by Udoamaka Elenwoke. A professional Italian nurse and you can follow her on Social media

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