Dr Mazvita Machinga
IS your loved one forgetful, losing track of the time or becoming lost in familiar places? They may be needing professional help or this may be age associated memory impairment. One day, I heard some people talking about this word “dementia” and with curiosity I asked them to explain to me what dementia was.
That is when I realised that there is need to have this article. The response from these people demonstrated to me how some people view dementia as one condition and yet it is not like so. Others also believe one may have been bewitched. So what is dementia? Dementia isn’t a specific condition or disease. Instead, it is a wide-ranging category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to remember, to think and to socialise.
It is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia comes when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s or series of strokes and other brain injuries. Dementia involves damage of nerve cells in the brain. This damage can occur in several areas of the brain.
When this happens, and depending on what part of the brain is affected, one’s day to day functioning changes. Dementia affects people differently. Another important fact for us to remember is that dementia often affects people as they age but is it not part of aging. It is essential to know that aging is a natural part of life it is not sickness.
Aging impacts everyone differently. All of us will eventually age, regardless of culture, gender, or status and may have memory impairment. Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people.
Dementia is different from age-associated memory impairment or stress-induced memory problems. In the absence of an underlying stress or medical condition, memory loss can come as a result of “age-associated memory impairment.”
This is considered as part of the normal aging process and it is not dementia. Remember, it does not mean when one has dementia they have been bewitched as I have heard other people saying.
Also it does not necessarily mean that if you sometimes forget someone’s name, or have confusion, have trouble “finding” words you want to use, or feel ill-tempered then you have dementia. It is always important to distinguish if the changes you are seeing in yourself or a loved one are signs of natural aging process or it’s something more that needs medical assistance.
The sad thing is that there is no treatment currently available to cure dementia or to alter its progressive course. So the following are simple tips that can keep you going and help you cope with onset of dementia.
- 1. Consult your clinic, medical or psychiatric doctor for help. Remember early detection of dementia, is important and this can be done only by medical practitioners.
- Engage in mentally stimulating activities-keep your mind active e.g. reading, church work, volunteer work and sports.
These may delay the onset of dementia and decrease its effects.
- Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction might delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
- Stop taking alcohol or smoking.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Keep a routine. Organise information (keep details in a calendar or day planner)
- Put items in the same spot (always put your keys in the same place by the door)
- 8. Repeat information (repeat names when you meet people)
- Have adequate sleep at least 7-8 hours every night.
Living with someone suffering from dementia is overwhelming for the families too. Physical, emotional and economic pressures can cause great stress to families and caregivers. Support is available from health, social, and psychological interventions. So make sure you or your loved one gets help early and do not delay.
- Dr Mazvita Machinga is a psychotherapist based in Mutare. For psychotherapy and professional counseling, call 0778 83 84 10 or email firstname.lastname@example.org