By Aney Mathew/Doha
Mental and neurological disorders have rightly been gaining more public attention globally in the recent past. A common phenomena associated with mental health is the severe stigma associated with the illness and as a result far fewer people seek help when they or a family member is affected.
Lack of sufficient knowledge of signs and symptoms of mental health issues also leads to far fewer people receiving professional help during the early stages. This often means that when they do come under treatment, their condition has grown to more complicated levels or is at an advanced stage.
As Qatar keeps progressing on many fronts, the health and well-being of its citizens have remained top priority and the area of mental health has not been left behind. Dementia is an area of mental health that has been gaining considerable public attention – the world over, with increasing calls being made to make it a public health priority. Dementia currently affects more than 47mn people worldwide; 2.3mn of them live in North Africa and the Middle East. These figures are expected to rise to 75mn and 4.4mn respectively by 2030.
Dementia is a term that describes several different diseases of the brain caused by damage to brain cells. The brain is so damaged that it affects the ability to do usual, everyday tasks (activities of daily living). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common kind of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% if cases.
The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a member of Qatar Foundation, has been actively committed to highlighting the growing problem of dementia as a global public health challenge. WISH and Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC’s) Department of Geriatrics collaborated recently on a community engagement event, to raise awareness about dementia among the general public of this global problem.
Egbert Schillings, CEO of WISH, said: “Dementia is often overlooked amid more immediate health concerns. However, one out of three people die with dementia and all of us at some point will have the experience of a loved one being diagnosed with dementia. That is why we were delighted to co-host this community event with HMC. WISH is committed to helping advance the dementia agenda, both at a policy level and within the community.”
People with dementia who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and related diseases have a progressive biological brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, or take care of themselves.
Dementia affects various areas including: memory, language skills, visual perception (the ability to see and understand what is being seen), the ability to focus and pay attention and the ability to reason and solve problems. In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person’s personality and behaviour.
Caring for people with dementia poses huge challenges. While everyone agrees the position and responsibility of the care giver, in the dementia landscape is paramount and cannot be overrated, the challenges faced by these individuals, as well as their needs and the support they require, are all too often either forgotten or simply overlooked.
Commenting on the physical, psychological, social and economic impact of dementia on caregivers, families and society, Dr Hanadi Alhamad, chairperson of geriatrics at HMC and WHO Focal Point for the Global Dementia Observatory said: “I can think of no other condition that has such a profound effect on loss of function, loss of independence, and the need for care.”
Dementia is more common in people who are 65 years and older, but is not a normal part of ageing. While there is currently no cure, early detection and treatment may slow the disease and help improve the quality of life of those affected.
Dementia is a progressive and terminal disease, which means it will continue to get worse with time and lead to death. If your loved one has dementia, it is important to understand that the brain of your loved one has been changed by dementia and that he or she can no longer think, perceive or express their thoughts the way they did before.
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