#endzheimer EMPOWERING CHANGE
A National Strategy For Dementia In The Maltese Islands
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe various brain disorders that cause progressive loss of brain function.
Dementia is usually characterised by memory loss, especially memory of recent events, problems with reasoning and communication, as well as a reduction in an individual's ability to carry out daily activities such as washing, dressing and cooking.
Although dementia is more common among older people, younger people can also be affected this is called Early Onset Dementia
People are living longer and the older we become the more likely we are to get dementia. It is estimated that in 2015, in Malta, there will be 6,000 persons over 60 years living with dementia. This is projected to increase to 10,000 persons by 2030. This trend is similar to other developed countries around the world.
IMPORTANT: Dementia is not a direct consequence of ageing. Getting older does not necessarily mean you are going to get dementia.
What are the Signs and symptoms of dementia?
The symptoms vary from one person to the other depending on the type of dementia and which areas of the brain are mostly involved. However the following signs might indicate that the person could have dementia:
Memory changes that disrupt life
Such as forgetting the names of family members, experience problems in carrying out daily activities and repeating the same question or experience.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
May have difficulties with handling money especially to work out their change, and may find it hard to solve problems.
Difficulty in completing tasks at home / work / leisure
The person might find it difficult to follow a busy schedule, takes longer to complete tasks, and may find it harder to complete more novel tasks
Confusion with time or place
Losing awareness of which day it is or of the time of day, may get lost in familiar places.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
The person might find it difficult to judge distances. They might look at the mirror and think someone else is in the room.
The person may put things in unusual places. Things may be lost and the person is unable to go back over her steps to find them again.
Decreased or poor judgement
The person may make odd decisions which could lead to decreased safety. If the person still drives make sure she/he is still safe on the road, a driving assessment could help you decide.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
The person is likely to withdraw from some activities which are perceived as too demanding.
Changes in mood and personality
People with dementia may also feel sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them. Dementia may also affect parts of the brain that control emotion.
Do you suspect that your loved one has dementia?
1. If you suspect any deterioration in memory
If you suspect any deterioration in memory, change in personality and behaviour contact your doctor as soon as possible.
2. You might need to contact a professional rather than only a psychiatrist
You might need to contact a psychiatrist, neurologist or a consultant geriatrician for a more detail and thorough investigations of signs and symptoms. Your doctor could refer you to the Memory Clinic at Rehabilitation Hospital Karen Grech for further investigation.
3. Make sure that when you accompany your loved one to the doctor
Make sure that when you accompany your loved one to the doctor, you present yourself with important information which might help to diagnose or rule out dementia (how long you have been noticing the signs and symptoms, daily medication, diet, alcohol use, changes in oneâ€™s life such as retirement or bereavement).
4. Phone the Dementia Helpline on 1771
Phone the Dementia Helpline on 1771
Why is early diagnosis important in dementia?
1. There might be other conditions rather than dementia that are causing the problems such as infections, problems with the thyroid gland, depression, alcohol use, vitamin deficiencies, etc.
The sooner the diagnosis, the sooner the treatment. There is no cure but treatment can slow down the rate of the progression of the disease and could improve function in everyday activities.
The sooner the diagnosis the sooner you can plan for it and this enables you to learn about this condition and plan ahead.