Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities that interferes with daily functioning. According to the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study by the Institute of Mental Health, one in 10 aged 60 and above are at risk of developing dementia. With the growing aging population in Singapore, dementia is definitely an issue that must not be overlooked.
Incidental forgetting, such as occasionally misplacing your house keys or struggling to remember the name of someone you just met, is not unusual. However, our knowledge, old memories, and language abilities remain intact. It may be an indication of dementia when these cannot be recalled.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
- Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
- Forgetting old memories
- Not being able to complete tasks independently
What increases the risk of dementia?
- Old age as most cases of dementia are in individuals aged 65 years and above
- Family history of dementia
- Poor heart health such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking
- Traumatic brain injury
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease; it accounts for 60% to 80% of cases. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that is diagnosed based on medical history, brain imaging scans, blood tests and psychological assessments. Although there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms, there is no known cure.
How to care for someone with dementia?
- Do not expect them to remember, as this will be frustrating for them
- Simplify activities and communication
- Encourage them to exercise daily and maintain social activities
- Use adaptive equipment, such as grab bars or ramps, to make it easier for the person to get around.
Even if you do not directly know someone with dementia, you may come across them in public. They may leave the house and face difficulties navigating their way home. Here are some things you can do to help.
- Keep a lookout for people who demonstrate the signs and symptoms of dementia.
- Patiently and clearly interact with them by asking “can I help you?”.
- If they appear lost, you can look for an identification card to find their house address or next-of-kin’s contact.
- In the event of an emergency, you can call the police at 999.
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