Dementia: Can We Reduce the Risk?
On 21 September, Alzheimer's organisations around the world observe World Alzheimer's Day and the theme for 2014 is Dementia: Can We Reduce the Risk?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and is often called a family disease because the stress of watching a loved one slowly decline affects everyone around them. The Department of Social Development (DSD) assists Western Cape citizens by raising awareness about Alzheimer's and the need for more education on dementia.
The Department of Social Development currently funds Dementia SA, a specialist organisation that provides a service to older persons in the Western Cape suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Dementia SA facilitates community workshops to educate the general public about dementia and Alzheimer's, as well as training social workers to assist the family members of older persons affected by the disease.
The term "dementia" is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. These include Alzheimer's disease and stroke.
Dementia is progressive - which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. How fast dementia progresses depends on the individual. Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.
Symptoms of Dementia include:
- Loss of memory - for example, forgetting the way home from the shops, or being unable to remember names and places.
- Mood changes, particularly as parts of the brain that control emotion are affected by disease. People with dementia may also feel sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them.
- Communication problems - a decline in the ability to talk, read and write.
In the later stages of dementia, the person affected will have problems carrying out everyday tasks and will become increasingly dependent on other people.
The exact causes of Alzheimer's remain largely unexplained, but we do know that there are contributors to memory problems. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Head injury
- High cholesterol
- Low education levels
- Physical inactivity
Can Dementia be Cured?
Most forms of dementia cannot be cured, although research is continuing into developing drugs, vaccines and treatments.
In recent years new drugs have been developed that relieve some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the early- to middle stages.
Early warning signs of dementia:
Vroeë waarskuwingstekens van Demensië (Afrikaans):
Ukumelana nesimo esihluphayo (isiXhosa):
Facilities for Older Persons:
- Nerina Gardens, Fish Hoek
- Esperanza, Strand
- Huis JJ Watson, George
- Lettie Theron CMR, Hermanus
- Helderberg Lodge, Somerset West
- AA Tomlinson, Swellendam
Organisations to Contact:
Tel: 021 421 0077 / 78
021 418 5888
Tel: 0860 636 679 (national helpline)
Alzheimer's South Africa
Tel: 021 979 2724 (Western Cape)