Early diagnosis can help control geriatric dementia 老人失智莫輕忽 及早就診可控制

Sat, Jan 05, 2013 - Page 11

In Taiwan’s graying population, it is crucial that we pay attention to the mental health of the seniors in our families, and not only concern ourselves with their physical health. Drastic changes in the way a senior talks or behaves, or suddenly becoming suspicious of others for no reason, should all be taken quite seriously.

Chang Hui-wen, an attending physician in the geriatrics department at Changhua Christian Hospital’s Erlin branch, says that dementia in the geriatric population is usually brought on by the degeneration of neurons and blood vessels in the brain, the symptoms for which include cognitive, psychological and behavioral abnormalities. Having a stroke or Parkinson’s disease can also cause dementia.

Chang says that senility is something that everyone must eventually face at some point in life, but says that typically when an elderly person with dementia is taken to see a doctor, it will be because a spouse feels like their husband or wife has suddenly changed, or a son or daughter feels as though a parent has suddenly become exceedingly suspicious of others.

Dementia does not mean that your memory simply deteriorates to the point where you forget to eat and complain about your children not feeding you. When a senior starts showing signs of dementia, it will usually make you feel like they have become an entirely different person. A warm, gentle person will start using obscene language to curse at you, eventually reaching the breaking point, even for family members. Some people who are usually good-natured and caring suddenly become suspicious of everyone, doubting whether their children have stolen money from them, or put poison in their food, and family members offer explanations to no avail. This is the point when people usually seek medical help.

Chang also says that as soon as a senior shows signs of dementia, family members become the primary line of defense. Early detection is the only way for early treatment to begin, and the only way to keep the condition from worsening. Sudden personality, linguistic, behavioral, attitudinal, cognitive or memory problems, as well as becoming increasingly suspicious of others or emotionally dysfunctional, are all possible indicators that a family member is suffering from dementia. The only way to find a proper treatment is by seeing a doctor and conducting an evaluation that takes into consideration mental, physical and emotional factors, and balancing medications.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)