Recently there have been new findings concerning ways to prevent people from developing dementia. As a nurse I have worked with dementia patients and their families. I know firsthand what a toll dementia can take on a family’s emotions and finances; and I know how crucial it is that we find ways to prevent dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not a disease but a term that describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms are associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills and interfere with a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living. Dementia is progressive, it worsens with time, and it is not curable as dead brain tissue does not regenerate. Observing how dementia can progress in a person can be heart rending enough for a person simple assigned to that patient. For family members, watching a loved one go from being a productive member of society to someone who cannot survive on his or her own is more than painful. I like to sit with my patients and their families and talk about who they were before they became ill. Dementia can totally alter a person’s personality, turning someone who was always happy and docile to a aggressive, angry person.
I have often heard family members state that they would not wish dementia on anyone. When I listen to them I hear the words they are not speaking, they fear that they too may develop dementia. Genetics, family history and age are risk fact for dementia that cannot be changed. But what if a person could slow the progression of dementia by exercising more, or delay the onset of symptoms by five years by learning a new language. Recent findings from studies focusing on dementia prevention state that these are indeed legitimate means of prevention.
A new review of 16 studies shows that people with dementia receive both physical and chemical benefits from exercise. The review was conducted by Cochrane Collaboration, a group of international researchers. A lead author of the review, Dorothy Forbes, states that any kind of exercise is sufficient. Walking or simple getting out of a chair may be options.
The study is not complete in that it does not provide data on which of the seven stages of dementia exercise effects. The study also does not describe what effects exercise may have on personality and mood changes, and other aspects of dementia. The Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences in India and the University of Edinburgh did research involving 650 dementia patients. The research showed that patients who spoke more than one language developed dementia 5 years later than average.
Dementia can affect any and everybody. I have taken care of rocket scientists, lawyers, doctors, singers and homemakers. Blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics have all walked through the door of the facility I currently work. Dementia affects us all. There are 5.2 million people with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. These new findings may not leave us 100 percent sure that we will one day be able to prevent dementia, but they give us hope. For some of us who face dementia daily, this is enough.
By Earnestine Jones
Source: Alzheimer’s Association