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General Health

Mental Health Requirements for Dementia Sufferers

73-year-old Chief Afolabi is a retired Ambassador and a widely respected individual in his community. Over the past couple of years, people in his community have become troubled by his recent activities.  For example, one evening the Chief was partaking in his daily stroll but to the surprise of his neighbours, he ended up in a less than friendly part of the town.

In this instance, the Chief had become lost and forgotten how to find his way home.  When he became tired, he proceeded to rest on a nearby bench.  When passers-by tried to put him in a taxi home, the attempts failed as he could not remember the name of his street, a street that was named after him.

As the night continued, his family members had growing concerns of his whereabouts, organising a search party and alerting the police.  He was discovered three hours later and taken home.  On top of this example, Chief Afolabi’s wife remarked that he regularly became lost, even in his own house, sometimes entering the kitchen when he was in fact trying to locate the bathroom. He would often answer the door to visitors in only his undergarments, unaware that he was not dressed properly.

To begin with, the chief’s wife attributed these occurrences to the fact that the Chief was becoming old but her concerns grew when he started not sleeping properly and exhibiting aggressive behaviour.  Nowadays, he is known for becoming enraged and violent over very small things.  She was advised to take him to a psychiatrist and that he could possibly be suffering from dementia but this only worried her. Questions such as “What is dementia?” and “Is my husband going completely mad?” flooded her mind.

The process of life is simple. We begin as babies and grow into toddlers, continue through childhood into teenagers and forward into adults.  Adulthood is suggested to be the peak of our lives both physically and mentally.  As we grow into old age, defined as 65 years and above, our physical and mental health begins to deteriorate.  With this process, we often encounter problems such as memory loss.  These are all part of the natural biological changes in our bodies.

Dementia is defined as a very severe decline in brain activity, symptoms that regularly appear in elderly people over the age of 65. These symptoms vary from person to person but commonly, the condition progressively worsens over time, especially in memory performance areas.  This is caused by the weakening of nerves, many of which are responsible for remembering things, people and places.

Consequently, the sufferer may start to forget their way around their home or misplace certain items, forgetting where they put them.  They may also begin to forget their local neighbourhood or become unable to locate their home when out and about, regardless of how long they have lived in the area.  Individuals may also find it difficult to have conversations, forgetting the correct words to use, finding it hard to remember people’s names and find it challenging to recall events or meetings.  These dementia related issues are classified into three groups.

Day to Day Functioning

Due to the decrease in brain activity, individuals may forget day to day things such as their bank account details, which can cause issues when doing banking. In more extreme cases, victims may start to cook meals and forget they were doing that, increasing the risk of fires in their home.  It’s when events like this occur that loved ones may want to consider employing full time carers or specialized housing, as the individual cannot live independently without risks.

Behavioural Issues

Behavioural problems commonly refers to cases where dementia sufferers make poor judgements in situations.  This can include the desire to go for walks at unsocial times or leave their houses dressed inappropriately.  When individuals are challenged on these decisions, they can become irritated and sometimes violent.  Dementia sufferers may also experience mood swings or changes in their personalities.

Challenges Associated with Elderly Dementia Sufferers

At the age when dementia usually occurs, it’s not uncommon for loved ones, such as children or grandchildren, to be living away from home, sometimes in different cities or even different countries.  With this in mind, alongside the ever increasing occurrences of broken down family systems, realising dementia cases can become increasingly difficult. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that dementia specialized homes are becoming more and more common.  With the rise of these homes, there comes the challenge of providing suitable supervision and auditing processes to help combat abuse in these homes, or even in dementia sufferers own homes if using a full time home carer.

Behaviour problems that are associated with dementia can be treated with medication but it’s vital that comprehensive medical reviews are regularly carried out.  These reviews can accurately ensure that other health issues aren’t present such as hypertension or diabetes.