Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Dementia is an illness that effects the brain and its ability to function. Identifying the warning signs early can make a positive difference to the patient & family. There are also steps you can take to reduce the risks of dementia. Read on to learn more.
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, but is an illness that leads to the decline of the brain and its abilities in judgment, language, planning, and behaviour. It can affect adults of any age, although it is more likely to occur in those above 60 years old.
There are several types of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Another common form of dementia is vascular dementia, which occurs after a series of small strokes causes problems with blood circulation to the brain. However, being able to identify dementia from its onset and seeking the right help early can make a positive difference in the life of a person with dementia, and their family members. Moreover, early detection and treatment can slow down the progression of the condition, and is important for the effective management of dementia.
The truth is, dementia is more than forgetfulness. It diminishes a person’s ability to care for themselves and causes problems with planning and communication. It also leads to changes in personality and behaviour. However, it is possible to lower the risk of dementia through lifestyle choices and habits.
Studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and certain types of dementia. Here are 5 lifestyle habits you can pick up to lower the risk of dementia:
Read, write, play cards, crossword puzzles, or board games. Learn a new language or musical instrument.
Meet up for meals and activities with your family and friends.
Volunteer, join a club, or participate in community events.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Take less sugar and salt, and choose food that is low in fat and saturated fat.(Find out how you can cook right and eat smart with these easy-to-follow nutrition tips here.)
Exercise increases blood circulation and can improve
brain function. (Start taking steps to an active life now with these 7 Easy Exercises here.)
Quit smoking, go for regular health screening, monitor chronic conditions and reduce alcohol intake.
Joy’s mother is over 90 years old, and has been living with dementia for about 15 years. It started with a few noticeable changes in her behaviour — she would often lose her way to places she had visited many times before. She was frequently repeating herself, and only recognised people from her past.
Watching her mother go through dementia has been difficult and challenging at the same time, but with support from her extended family, Joy has since learnt to cope with her mother’s condition.
Together with her helper, Joy engages her mother in activities, and makes plans around her to ensure that she is never left alone. As a person with dementia, Joy’s mother has difficulty navigating familiar day-to-day tasks. One of the key challenges Joy faces is having to re-teach her mother how to do day-to-day tasks, such as closing the window when it rains. But with patience and understanding, Joy continues to stay positive and, through online research, find new ways to better help her mother.
During one of his routine check-ups, Glenda’s father was diagnosed with dementia. With no experience in caring for someone with dementia, it has been a difficult transition for Glenda and her family. On top of that, watching her father go through dementia when he was already dealing with diabetes
was difficult and emotionally stressful.
Eventually, Glenda decided to seek help from the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, and upon hearing from fellow dementia caregivers who shared similar experiences, Glenda felt a boost of confidence, and was more encouraged to deal with her father’s condition. She learnt to be more understanding of her father, and to provide better care for him. Living and coping with dementia can sometimes get too overwhelming. When that happens, don’t be afraid to seek help from organisations, counsellors, or even your family and friends.
In 2014, Elaine’s husband started showing signs of dementia. After he got diagnosed with dementia, their lives changed. The news came unexpectedly, which made it even more difficult for Elaine and her family to cope. However, they decided to move forward, and began finding ways to cope with her husband’s diagnosis.
Elaine sought help from a dementia counsellor, and attended a caregiver course to learn how to better care for her husband. Since then, Elaine has learnt to cope and adjust to this new reality. She understands that there will be new problems to face every day, but she now takes it in stride and sees this as a learning journey for herself and her family.
Andrea’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia. In the beginning, they thought she was just being forgetful due to her old age. However, when she started to forget their home address, or complain that she hasn’t eaten when she just ate just an hour ago, they knew something was amiss.
After her mother-in-law was diagnosed, Andrea and her family had to adjust to a whole new lifestyle. They had to learn to accommodate to her, and make sure there was always someone around to keep an eye on her.
Together with her husband and daughters, Andrea makes it a point to engage her mother-in-law with puzzles and games frequently, to keep her brain active. To help her remember, Andrea started making charts to show her what she had done throughout the day. They would also use photos to remind her of things whenever she forgets.
To protect the privacy of individuals, names have been changed and images used are
merely depictions, and do not reflect the identities of actual persons.
Caring for a dementia patient can be challenging,
as well as stressful. It can also take a physical and emotional toll on the caregiver. To provide the best possible care for patients, caregivers can start by looking after their own health and well-being.
Having a strong support network really helps too. Apart from friends and family, help can also come from fellow caregivers in support groups. Support groups provide caregivers a place to share their feelings, gain emotional support and talk to people with whom they can relate.
For more information, you can call
Alzheimer’s DiseaseAssociation Dementia Helpline
Learn caregiver self-care tips through this e-learning resource.
Stay tuned for more updates.
Commissioned by the Health Promotion Board and shot by acclaimed local director Eric Khoo, the film brings out the real and poignant social issues related to dementia. Recipe stars Zoe Tay as Qiu Yun, whose life takes on a new meaning when her mother is diagnosed with the disease. The illness sees mother and daughter through an emotional journey that resolves their differences and brings them closer to each other.
Catch the full movie here.
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Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.