DEMENTIA is still not the number one topic that we want to spring out with in a social gathering such as eating a meal with family or friends. Although the UK, America and other countries have large numbers of resources and awareness, there is still a lot of confusion on symptoms and differences and this may be ongoing. So it is always good to refresh our knowledge to help clarify and bring awareness to those who may be unaware.
I will take some facts from different sources to try and bring understanding. So here are a few common misunderstandings.
1.Alzheimer’s and dementia are two types of diseases.
Alzheimer’s is a type or cause of dementia. Dementia is a syndrome which is a term used to describe a group of symptoms. So one can say dementia is one basket and cancer is another basket. The basket of cancer has: breast cancer, leukaemia, prostate cancer, lung cancer and so on. The dementia basket will have: Alzheimer’s; vascular dementia; lewy body dementia; Parkinson’s dementia and so on. Alzheimer’s is just one of the dementia’s in the basket but it is the most common and is responsible for 60% to 80% of all cases around the world.
2.Forgetfulness equals dementia.
Yes, with age we may become a little forgetful but a little memory impairment is different to dementia. Research shows that one in three people over the age of 65, will develop dementia. Right now every 4 seconds someone will develop dementia and 44% will go undiagnosed. This could be due to the fact that the symptoms can easily be dismissed as normal forgetfulness.
3.There are only a few types of dementia.
Actually, there are over a 100 types of dementia. Each type of dementia has different causes and patterns of symptoms.
4.Dementia is only for the elderly.
There are people under 65 with common dementias such as Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia and may still be working and have dependent children. I personally have met people in their 40’s with Alzheimer’s and frontal temporal dementia. A lot of people with young onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are strong advocates for better quality of care and are our teachers for this care.
5.Dementia is just memory loss.
Dementia is experienced differently by those with it and memory loss or forgetfulness is not the only nor is it always the first symptom experienced but it is the most common. Other symptoms include problems with reasoning, mobility and balance, decision making, everyday skills like cooking, language and communication, personality and special awareness. And towards the end of the disease they will experience problems with breathing and heart regulation and then death.
There are other misunderstandings with regard to dementia and the above is just a touch of what is known. At this time there is still no cure. With no cure we have no hard evidence of prevention. However, researchs does show risk factors. Decreasing the risk factors decreases our chances of developing dementia. Researcher have noted that the disease develops anywhere between 20 to 50 years before a symptom or diagnosis is found. With this in mind, we as individuals would be wise to be mindful of our diet, environment, life styles, stress, our ability to experience joy, healthy relationships, and helping our neighbour in love. Although St. Lucia is not a fast pase country, it is not exempt from Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
It has been stated several times who the only people that develop Alzheimer’s or another dementia are people who have lived abroad from St. Lucia. That is very far from the truth. However, what is noted is that those who have been abroad are more likely to seek a diagnosis. The stigma with dementia is one that St. Lucians are rising to fight against. One person at a time, one day at a time and one moment at a time brings about Awareness and then a positive change will occur.
Q: Dear Ms. Posvar, My sister has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for the lost two years. Sometimes she says things that are so clear and accurate, I think she is getting better. Can this be true?
A: Everyone with dementia has times when they make perfect sense and can respond appropriately. The moments of lucidity causes us to question diagnoses and if they are getting better. This is normal, however they are just having moments that you can treasure.
Silly joke “Two elderly women were in a beauty [parlour] getting their hair done when in walked a 21-year-old girl with a low-cut blouse that revealed the tattoo of a rose on one breast. One woman leaned over to the other and whispered: ‘Poor thing. She doesn’t know it, but in 50 years she’ll have a long-stemmed rose in a hanging basket!’
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