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Dementia is not a specific disease and rather is a group of symptoms caused by brain disorders that usually affect the elderly population. While the condition is common for people over 65, dementia is not a part of the aging process. Dementia is diagnosed when patients show signs of problems with two or more brain functions, including memory and language. Among frequent causes, researchers mention Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Although drugs can improve symptoms and slow down the disease, contemporary medicine cannot cure the illness and repair brain damage.
People over 65 is a vulnerable population usually characterized by suffering from an increased number of chronic diseases. The elderly are in need of special attention from health care authorities due to their health and functional status. This population group is more likely to suffer from economic hardships, depression, and loneliness (Kales, Gitlin, & Lyketsos, 2015). Moreover, people over 65 are more at risk of experiencing the symptoms of dementia, vision impairment, and heart conditions (Kales et al., 2015). Therefore, the population group demonstrates a need for a shift towards addressing chronic diseases rather than treating acute illnesses.
Describing the Condition
Dementia is a universal problem for healthcare systems around the globe as the number of people suffering from its symptoms is snowballing. According to Baumgart et al. (2015), 47 million people worldwide live with dementia, and the number is estimated to triple by 2050. Approximately 90% of the cases start among patients older than 65. The characteristics of the condition can be summarized as “people not acting like themselves” and can include behavioral, language, emotional, and movement symptoms (“Dementia,” n.d.). The behavioral conditions are perseveration, social disinhibition, and compulsive eating (“Dementia,” n.d.).
Aphasia, dysarthria, apathy, dystonia, tremor, and apraxia can also be the signs of dementia (“Dementia,” n.d.). In short, the illness is a crucial healthcare issue that should be addressed on the international level.
Dementia is usually caused by brain damage, lifestyle, and cardiovascular diseases. While the most significant risk factors are age and genetic susceptibility genes, such conditions as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia are common risk factors for dementia (Baumgart et al., 2015). Moreover, smoking, alcohol, unhealthy diet, low physical activity, and social engagement are also considered possible causes of the condition (Baumgart et al., 2015).
However, the most frequent source of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The illness is characterized by an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that is gradually destroying memory and ability to think and, eventually, the ability to carry out simplest tasks (“Alzheimer’s Disease,” n.d.). In brief, dementia is a group of symptoms that can be the consequences of inappropriate lifestyle, cardiovascular conditions or Alzheimer’s disease.
For a greater appreciation of the condition, it is beneficial to review at least one of theoretical approaches towards treating dementia. In the literature review conducted by Kales et al. (2015), the authors describe the physical and psychological difficulties that dementia patients face and ways of assessing, addressing and treating the issues. The article focuses its attention on the mental problems of people who have dementia. The research states that depression, aggression, agitation, apathy, and psychosis may occur on all stages of the illness, although their type and prominence depend on the stage (Kales et al., 2015).
While cognitive symptoms are the crucial indicators of the conditions, psychological and behavioral traits are the source of the difficulties for patients and their family (Kales et al., 2015). Therefore, the emotional problems of the people who have dementia need the most attention from caregivers.
Dementia treatment is symptomatic and focuses on slowing down the decline in cognitive ability, as there is no cure for the condition. Due to the complexity of the issue, no universal approach fits all cases; however, there are guidelines for pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatment. Pharmacologic treatment includes anti-depressants, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, cholinesterase inhibitors, and memantine (Kales et al., 2015).
The drugs of dementia symptoms are expensive and are often reported as a source of financial hardships by the elderly (Kales et al., 2015). Care providers and family members should consider all the adverse events of the medications before elaborating pharmacologic treatment plan. In brief, the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of current drugs for dementia symptoms are the sources of continuous disputes, therefore, healthcare providers are advised to focus on non-pharmacologic treatment of the illness.
Numerous guidelines propose non-pharmacologic strategies as the primary method for addressing dementia except emergencies, where there is an imminent danger to patient’s or other people’s lives. Kales et al. (2015), provide a thorough review of interventions targeting the patients, caregivers, and the environment. The study shows that while acupuncture, light therapy, reminiscence therapy, and aromatherapy may be beneficial for the people who have dementia, education provided to the family has a more significant potential for improving the patient’s quality of life (Kales et al., 2015).
Tailored Activity Program (TAP) for family members has shown a significant reduction in the frequency of behavioral and psychological problems (Kales et al., 2015). Moreover, modifying the environment where dementia patients spend most of their time through establishing their daily routine, ensuring their safety, and organizing their activity is crucial for improving the outcomes (Kales et al., 2015). In summary, non-pharmacologic approaches to treatment should be the central aspect of therapy.
As mentioned above, the research method utilized by Kales et al. (2015) is a literature review, and it has proven to be most effective for covering all the aspects of the condition. While randomized control trials are the golden standard for contemporary studies, they have a narrow focus. As the purpose of the article is to provide a holistic picture of the issue, a randomized control trial would be inappropriate in the situation. Therefore, the research method used by the authors of the article is adequate and has proven to be most beneficial for their objectives.
As emotional problems have proven to be a decisive source of hardships for a dementia patient and their families, caregivers are advised to focus on the psychological aspect of the illness. First, families should realize that people over 65 being diagnosed with the condition is not a unique situation, and there is no reason for panic. Second, the primary way of addressing the issue should be increasing the physical and mental activity of the patient.
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A simple act of thoughtful talking with a family member can improve the condition of the older adults than prescribed drugs. Third, drugs should always be available for emergency use, however, a systematic medication intake should be avoided as long as possible. Non-pharmacologic interventions are to stay the primary method of addressing dementia symptoms. Finally, stress management is equally important for patients and their relatives. As long as family members are affectionate and compassionate to the patient, there is less risk for aggravation of symptoms. In short, people who have dementia are more in need of comfort from their relatives and friends rather than drugs and specialized care.
Resources for Addressing Dementia
The US government provides informational resources to support individuals and families in addressing dementia. National Institute on Aging (NIA) created a website where patients and caregiver can find sources for self-education about the condition (“Alzheimer’s Disease,” n.d.).
The website provides information about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Moreover, the NIA website provides the contacts of Alzheimer related and Dementias Educational and Referral (ADEAR) Center that can answer any relevant questions. The institution can be reached on Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. by phone or email (“Alzheimer’s Disease,” n.d.). The phone number is 1-800-438-4380 the email is [email protected] (“Alzheimer’s Disease,” n.d.). In essence, the NIA and the ADEAR Center are the first institutions to be reached when a case of dementia is discovered.
While dementia is not a part of the aging process, people over 65 often suffer from its physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. The risk factor for the condition includes age, genetic susceptibility genes, inappropriate lifestyle, cardiovascular conditions or Alzheimer’s disease. Although medications are appropriate for emergency purposes, drugs are often considered inefficient and too expensive for the elderly population.
Therefore, non-pharmacologic treatment is advised for addressing depression, apathy, and agitation in dementia patients. National government organizations can be reached to acquire additional informational support concerning the matter. In conclusion, even though dementia is a source of considerable hardships and lifestyle changes, there are ways of addressing the issue effectively without spending an excessive amount of financial resources.
Alzheimer’s disease & related dementias. (n.d.). Web.
Baumgart, M., Snyder, H., Carrillo, M., Fazio, S., Kim, H., & Johns, H. (2015). Summary of the evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia: A population-based perspective. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 11(6), 718-726. Web.
Dementia. (n.d.). Web.
Kales, H., Gitlin, L., & Lyketsos, C. (2015). Assessment and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. BMJ, 350(7), h369-h369. Web.