A HELPING HAND FOR ALZHEIMER’S & DEMENTIA

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There is great comfort to be found in knowing that there’s someone in your life who’ll carry you when you fall. There is great joy to be had in being surrounded by those who will protect you and stay by your side till the end.

Alzheimer’s and dementia can place a person in a situation where someone’s protection, care and love can make all the difference. It is a situation where solidarity is called for, as is a great deal of understanding. Science has made great strides in discovering more about these diseases, making the path for dementia patients and their loved ones that little bit easier.

This knowledge that we’ve acquired must also be extended to society in general, for empathy grows stronger when its roots lie in the seeds of wisdom. We must never forget that ‘everyone with a brain is at risk for Alzheimer’s’ (Alzheimer’s Association). It is also important that society knows there is help to be given if and when any form of dementia becomes a part of one’s life.

Thankfully, a set of guidelines has been compiled by UKS Mobility.com Ltd to assist those who require technological aids or just general advice on coping with dementia. It also provides a list of games and tasks that can help maintain cognitive activity and combat anxiety and depression. These will help promote communication with the carer, and it will also empower the patient with tools such as memory aids and audio reminders. By making these guidelines available, we can spread more awareness and information about dementia, and we can make the public better understand the ins and outs of it with an insight to these tips.

Today, 47.5 million people in the world suffer from dementia and 7.7 million cases come about every year (World Health Organisation). Unfortunately, the nature of the disease often leads to the dependency on others, and certain changes in the affected individual may be misunderstood by an uninformed public. The nature of the disease may also present some daunting challenges for the patient’s family and friends, which can cause emotional and financial strains.

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One of the first steps in better understanding the umbrella term of dementia is to know of its different strands, including Alzheimer’s. The two terms are in fact not interchangeable, and have some very distinct variations. This allows us to appreciate that every case of dementia is unique and has its own obstacles.

While dementia is a brain disorder that hinders the performance of everyday tasks and lessens communication skills, Alzheimer’s disease is actually a branch of dementia that targets specific parts of the brain which are dominant over memory, language and thought process. Other disorders which are classified as forms of dementia also include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson’s disease dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Huntington’s disease, to name a few. A person can develop a mixture of two branches, and so it can be challenging to make a distinction. Nonetheless, each condition has its own complications, and so each must be diagnosed as accurately as possible, in order to provide the patient and his/her loved ones with the appropriate treatment.

Dementia is of a gradual nature, and the rate of deterioration very much depends on the respective branch of the disorder. If it takes on a rapid pace, it may come as more of a shock to both the patient and his/her carers. Therefore, coming to grips with and adapting to the disorder becomes more crucial. It always helps to recognise the early signs, which include forgetfulness, a lack of control over one’s emotions and a lack of spacial orientation.

Of course, each person is affected in different ways, depending on their personality or the severity of the disease. Once dementia reaches its final stages, patients may find difficulty in walking and may become unaware of the concept of time and place. They may also find it hard to recognise close friends and relatives, and their sense of disorientation could lead to aggressive behaviour and a state of panic.

Compassion is key. When communicating with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, we must remember not to resort to referring to him or her in the third person. We must help them stay in touch by reminding them that they are present with us, in the here and now. What is most important is that they do not forget that they are humans with stories to tell and a relevant history that has been formed by loving relationships. The disease does not erase any of this. Let us ensure that our awareness keeps them present with us.

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