The term ‘dementia’ describes a deterioration over time of a variety of brain functions which can lead to problems with thinking/planning, memory, recognition of people, personality and effective language usage. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 – 60% of cases of dementia.
The risk factors for dementia
Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and after the age of 65, your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease increases sharply. But it must be remembered that Alzheimer’s disease does not affect all older people, and is not a normal part of the ageing process.
As with many other conditions, there appears to be a genetic component: if a close relative, such as a parent or sibling has developed Alzheimer disease, your chances become somewhat higher of developing it too.
People with Down syndrome can develop Alzheimer disease, but the onset is usually 10 – 20 years earlier than for the general population.
There is some evidence that certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, being obese, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, and getting little exercise, can all play a role in increasing someone’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
This can be a life-changing diagnosis, not only for the person him- or herself, but also for the family/ caregivers.
Changes will need to be made to adapt the person’s living situation, and the person’s caregiver/family members will have to make plans for the future. This can be an overwhelming prospect.
Symptoms of dementia may initially just manifest as confusion and memory loss, but as time goes by, and the dementia worsens, the person could need help with everyday activities.
A safe and supportive environment is key to the health and happiness of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Among the recommendations that Mayoclinic makes for the family/caregivers, are the following:
- Establishing routine habits
- Keep regularly used items in the same places
- Minimise memory-demanding tasks
- Organise finances so that they run on automatic debit orders
- Check to see what daily tasks (preparing meals, shopping, keeping clean) the person can do and track daily schedules on a whiteboard (Tick off completed tasks)
- Make sure the person gets proper nutrition and does not dehydrate
- Check the person’s mobility and remove clutter from the living environment
- Install sturdy handrails
- Display photos and other meaningful objects in the living space
- Getting daily exercise
- Give the person a cellphone that can track their location/make sure they have identification on them
- Get a medical alert bracelet
- Ensure that medication is taken regularly
There are places that offer daycare for people with Alzheimer’s where there are social activities and some treatments available. If someone needs round-the-clock care, however, a full-time Alzheimer’s care facility can provide this.
It is often difficult for a family member to provide the kind of care on an ongoing basis the patient needs to remain healthy and safe. There are also respite and hospice facilities available, especially in larger urban areas.
In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.