Health effects of dementia and recognizing the signs

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(WJMN) – Some Northern Michigan University nursing students and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly are teaming up to help bring awareness to dementia and the health effects it can have.

Dementia is described as the loss of memory, language, problem-solving skills, and other abilities that interfere with activities of daily living. It’s used as a blanket term for medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“The most common sign of dementia is memory loss,” said NMU nursing student Brandalyn King. “This includes problems with your short-term memory, losing track of things like your purse or your wallet. It can include other cognitive changes, such as difficulty communicating, or hard finding the right words. difficulty with motor functions and coordination, difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, or difficulty with problem-solving or reasoning. “

Dementia can also cause psychological changes in the person it is affecting, such as

  • Personality changes
  • Newfound anxiety, or depression
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Inappropriate behavior

Dementia is diagnosed by a doctor by performing a physical exam, mental status exam, imaging tests, and asking questions about the person’s past medical history. Lab testing can help rule out other diseases as well.

There are some risk factors that can increase your chances of getting dementia.

“These include smoking, drinking alcohol, and having high cholesterol,” said Nicole Austin. “All these factors are what we like to call modifiable risk factors, and they’re modifiable because that person can control how much they smoke and drink, and how much they practice healthy eating habits.”

Aging, genetics/family history, and diabetes are also risk factors for dementia.

“Some other prevention methods are staying at a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise, and eating healthy foods. It’s also important to stay mentally alert by learning new hobbies. This can be something like crossword puzzles, reading. You should also manage your health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes,” said Colleen Waters.

You can also stay socially involved by attending community activities, like a church or support groups. Our organization Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is another prevention method because we help to initiate routine social contact and this reduces the risk factor of loneliness and isolation.”

Treatment and care for dementia can include palliative care, medication that can help improve mental functions and behaviors, and counseling and support groups.

For more information about Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and how they can assist with those with dementia, click here.

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