Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Family must be aware of dementia in elderly: doctor

By Chen Chien-chih and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Doctors have cautioned family members to be on the lookout for signs of Alzheimer’s disease in elderly relatives, seeing if they are forgetful, such as forgetting the way home and repeatedly asking about the same things.

Family members brought an 83-year-old man surnamed Lin (林) to Taichung’s Asian University Hospital when they noticed that he was beginning to act strangely, department of neurology director Wang Hsin-fan (王馨範) said.

When Lin retired, it was just him and his wife at home, the Nantou County family said, adding that the younger generation had all moved out of town for work.

When his wife passed away several years ago, Lin was in the house alone, they said.

At first, he seemed fine, they said, adding that he would still go to the park and leave the house to socialize.

The family said the borough warden called them to say that neighbors had sometimes found Lin unkempt and wandering around alleyways as if he could not find his way home.

When the warden visited, he found that Lin had excellent recollection of past events in the borough, he told the family.

However, Lin could not recall what had happened just that morning, the warden said, adding that despite it being 3pm, Lin keep asking if the warden had eaten dinner.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, Wang said, adding that there is a reversible type of dementia and an irreversible type.

Reversible dementia is due to anemia, an electrolyte imbalance, and normal pressure hydrocephalus, or other metabolic problems, he said, adding that when the symptoms subside, this type of dementia should improve.

However, the irreversible type is due to degenerative diseases — such as Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia or mixed dementia — which gradually cause people to lose their cognitive and motor functions, Wang said.

One in five people aged 80 and above are diagnosed with dementia, with many of them having lost a substantial number of brain cells by the time their family discovers their illness, he said.

Older people should have regular checkups to ensure that symptoms of dementia are caught early, he added.

Caring for those suffering from dementia is a long and difficult process, he said.

Wang said that both the patient and family members should receive counseling or attend workshops on how to best care for people with dementia, and how to handle abnormal behavior and emotions with patience, so as to mitigate conflict and ensure that those with dementia receive the best care possible.

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