What are your concerns about your future health?
Ask any mid-aged person this question and chances are their answer will not be about developing heart conditions or even being diagnosed with cancer.
Today, the greatest fear amongst adult is being forgetful, losing control over one’s thoughts, and spending countless days being unable to recognize their loved ones.
Commonly known as dementia, the condition usually affects elderly individuals and according to stats, someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds. The Alzheimer’s Association also reports that nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer’s worldwide and the numbers are increasing rapidly.
The fear of being a cause for the rise in the dementia stats has led many aging individuals to turn to their physicians for help. Most people are unable to understand if the occasional forgetfulness is just a natural part of aging or early stages of dementia; and how can they reduce the risk of developing the condition in the first place.
If you are also worried about dementia and other cognitive-related conditions, then the first step towards diagnosis is to talk to your doctor about your concerns. It is also a good idea to note down any memory changes you have experienced during the past month along with a list of medicines you are currently taking.
Testing for dementia usually includes the following protocol:
The doctor discusses your medical history and obtains information about your memory, recent illness, and family history of cognitive diseases.
Physical examination and tests:
Physical examination along with laboratory tests and urine tests are also asked for to rule out infections, vitamin deficiency, and side effects of certain medications that are causing similar symptoms as dementia.
A standard X-ray is also taken, especially for those who smoke to rule out lung cancer which can also cause a secondary brain tumor.
Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE):
One of the most common tests for the screening of dementia, the MMSE, is usually conducted by the doctor in his office and takes hardly five minutes to complete. The test is used to assess a number of different mental abilities including writing, reading, attention span, long and short term memory, and orientation skills.
Depending upon the evaluation, doctors can also ask for a CT scan or an MRI to check signs of a stroke or brain tumor. The magnetic resonance imaging MRI scan is also called for to help confirm the diagnosis of dementia.
In rare cases, an EEG is also taken to record the brain’s activity.
Lifestyle changes for dementia
Whether it comes as a shock or reiterates something you had been contemplating since long – making the right lifestyle changes is essential to improve the quality of your life in the future. Here are some ways to go about it:
Keep a routine:
Make a daily schedule to follow everyday which will help you keep track of the goals you wish to accomplish each day.
Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly:
Living a healthy life is mandatory for everyone, including those diagnosed with dementia. Eating well, exercise and taking medicine on time is important but since forgetfulness is the primary symptom of dementia, most people forget or have trouble asking for the required items. This eventually leads to weight loss and poor health.
Therefore, make sure that you are eating on time, and in the initial stage, ask your loved ones to keep a check on your eating and exercise habits. Set up mobile apps or reminders that alert you when it’s time to eat, go out, and take medicines. A medicine organizer also comes in handy for remembering which medicines to take and at what times.
Limit alcohol and smoke intake:
Smoking and excessive drinking is not good for anyone. If you had a habit of smoking or drinking excessive alcohol before being diagnosed with dementia – try to limit your intake to none. Since these habits can interfere with your way of thinking, taking them aggressively might aggravate your cognitive condition and can even worsen your dementia.
You might have started avoiding public gatherings due to your forgetfulness and problems with vocabulary, but being socially active is equally important for people with dementia. Hence, try to spend as much time as possible with loved ones, go out to movies, or dances – anything that you enjoyed before can be enjoyed now as well.
Be mentally challenged:
Keep your mind alert by indulging in activities that stimulate the mind. Play chess, learn a new hobby, or do crossword puzzles. Remember, keeping the mind alert is one of the best ways to prevent dementia and keep it from worsening.
Get support in place:
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. After the initial shock of being diagnosed with the condition is over, the best step is to take is to seek help from family and friends. Make sure you have advanced care planning in place to ensure that you have a safe home in the future in case your cognitive disabilities deteriorate further.
Legal and financial formalities should also be put in place as soon as possible, especially when the condition is in the initial stage. This includes planning out a will, appointing an attorney to manage your affairs, and claiming benefits you are entitled to.
Those who get diagnosis at the right time and seek help in advance have a better chance of improving their quality of life with dementia. They can live longer, experience less pain and depression, and be more active as well as independent.