Dementia is a progressive syndrome that affects about 800,000 people in the UK. The risk of developing dementia increases with age. The condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65.
Dementia is often associated with ongoing deterioration of the brain’s abilities.
- memory loss
- reduced thinking speed
- reduced mental agility
- loss of language
- loss of understanding
- lack of judgement and empathy
People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities and socialising, have problems controlling their emotions and aspects of their personality may change for the worse. The person may even have hallucinations or make false claims or statements.
As dementia affects a person’s mental abilities, they may find planning and organising difficult so maintaining their independence may also become a problem, therefore usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.
Other symptoms can include:
- increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
- changes in personality and mood
- periods of mental confusion
- difficulty finding the right words
Most types of dementia can’t be cured, but if it is detected early there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function. Many tests are done to diagnose the disease; some by a GP and others by dementia specialists. Diagnosing is made harder if the symptoms are only mild but dementia is a progressive disease so it will unfortunately become more clear.
The more personal side of it
The first time I was ever made aware that a person had dementia was, not so long ago, when I was volunteering at Rehola, a care home for the elderly. I knew what dementia was and most of the science stuff up there but it’s totally different when you’re with a poor little old lady talking about how much she wants to see her family.
As soon as I walked in, an elderly woman started talking to me and I was happy about it but then got confused- she was saying that she’s glad to see me again but we’d never met. I felt a bit strange and awkward at first so simply I followed the textbook protocol of smiling and nodding along as the conversation drifted but I felt very fake. It was either that or cry so… y’know. I made a not to myself- You’re gonna be a doctor so grow a pair.
The nurse told me to loosen up! Me, loosen up! I’m the loosest person you’ll ever meet… OK not really but I am normally quite chilled. I did as I was told and soon enough I was helping them complete puzzles and I even ended up teaching one lovely old lady how to play Connect 4! She looked really happy and that made me so happy!! I left there feeling as though I had actually been useful!
That’s the kind of thing I want to be able to do as a doctor! No, not just play games, but actually help someone’s mind as well as their body. If playing games with someone can make them feel better, just imagine what the skills of a doctor can do; dude, we could discover the issue before it got worse, less people would have to suffer! Dementia sucks for the person and for the family too and there isn’t much we can do about it after it gets to a certain point but we can do so much before. Maybe we’ll just slow it down but at least that poor elderly person, who has been through this chores of life, can be with their family for longer. That little old lady I mentioned would have been able to see her grandson more often. The other old lady could have laughed more. The angry old man wouldn’t have felt so sad because he when realised that his temper hurts others because there is more that can be done about it. The old lady who was sat on the sofa wouldn’t have been crying because of something that she thinks happened but didn’t. You get my point.
We’re the doctors of the future. We may or may not be too late for the poor elderly people of today but we will not be too late for those of the future. Yes it’ll take a lot of work but that’s where dedicated people like you and I come in.
Do you agree? Yay or Nay.
May God bless you all,