Should I worry about my memory problems?
It happens to everyone from time to time. You can’t quite put a name to someone’s face. You forget where you’ve put your keys. You can’t remember where you parked your scooter. Often such memory lapses happen because of tiredness, stress or because of a heavy schedule.
But as we age forgetful experiences become more common. Age associated memory impairment is a general weakness in memory due to aging, which begins very early and increases markedly as we complete a half century mark. Often relieving stress makes a tremendous difference. Many times stepping up observation level or even using simple tricks can ease such symptoms. The brain is inherently so strong that a person can go on independently running one’s own affairs even in senior years despite the physiological changes and environmental factors affecting our brain.
But if your forgetfulness – or that of someone you know – is getting worse, if memory slips are becoming more frequent and persistent, if they are affecting your work or family life, or are beginning to interfere with everyday life, it can sometimes be the beginning of a specific medical problem such as dementia. If there is a medical reason for forgetfulness an early intervention is beneficial.
It needs to be understood that normal forgetful experiences do not interfere in living a full and productive life even after retirement. But when memory loss becomes serious it affects various aspects of life such as day to day functioning, hobbies, social life etc.
What is dementia?
WHO defines dementia as a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature- in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thoughts) beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It can influence memory, thinking, and comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgment. Thus dementia affects multiple functions carried out by the brain. Besides affecting these functions there may be behavioural and psychological symptoms associated with the disease. Such changes are observed in a person with dementia who was leading a perfectly normal life before the onset of the disease.
Causes of dementia
There are over 50 known causes of dementia. Improvement can be seen when memory loss is treated when it occurs due to vitamin deficiency, thyroid, depression etc. There are other diseases that cause dementia that are not curable. Dementia symptoms thus require thorough examination.
Most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Because nearly 50 to 60 percent cases of dementia are due to Alzheimer’s both these terms are used as synonyms. However, it is not so. Vascular dementia is another common form of dementia which is caused by conditions that reduce blood flow to the brain. Other common forms of dementia include Lewy Body dementia and Fronto temporal dementia.
Stages of Dementia
Persons with dementia do not lose their cognitive abilities all at once, it is a gradual process. Eventually they reach a stage when they become completely dependent on their family. The symptoms as well as trajectory of symptoms differ widely among those affected. The stages are broadly divided in early, moderate and severe stages.
Caring for a person with dementia is not easy
Providing care to the dementia patients is not only stressful but impacts the caregivers in multiple ways. The span of caregiving is stretched over a rather long period of time. Behaviours expressed by the patients are the most challenging aspect as they distress nearly all the caregivers. Caregivers are often overwhelmed by the caregiving responsibility but most of them carry out the responsibility with dedication at times neglecting their own health. It impacts their life in various ways. Health, socialization, recreation are some of the areas where the impact is noticeable.
Memory Clinic and its services
Memory Clinic was started under the Neurology Department of the Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital in 2010, in order to make available support, advice and training to those who are worried about their memory. Memory Clinic provides help to all those who are concerned about their memory. Importantly it runs an integrated program for the persons with dementia and their families.
Memory Clinic’s activities become significant considering low awareness level about memory problems. Often memory problems are ignored as they are considered to be part of aging. Stigma attached to memory issues also prevents people from seeking timely help.
Memory Clinic - along with the Alzheimer’s Support Group that is functioning in Pune - has established services such as support group for the caregivers, cognitive activities for the persons with dementia, counselling etc. The activities are based on non-pharmacological intervention and are focused on both the persons affected by dementia and the caregiving family. The activities of the Clinic underscore the concept of self care as a healthy caregiver is better equipped to take care of another individual. The activities also emphasize on providing skills to the caregivers, as well as providing them opportunities for socialization and recreation which lead to reducing their stress levels. The activities also involve awareness development about dementia.
What happens in the OPD?
OPD provides a chance to the Memory consultant to meet the person suffering from memory loss and his/her family members. Usually the consultant begins the discussion with understanding present problems experienced by the person with dementia and their family members. During the conversation the family is provided information about the nature of the disease and how it affects the patient’s cognitive abilities. The main aim of the discussion is to make the family understand how the person can be supported so that a) he/she can be helped in dealing with memory loss and b) independence is maintained for as long as possible. The discussion also brings out how caregivers can take care of themselves.
Subsequent meetings with the caregivers help in ensuring quality of care provided to the person suffering from dementia and their own care.
About memory lab
A memory lab which organizes cognitive activities for the persons with dementia strives to stabilize cognitive decline. Activities here make the participant’s think, reminisce, play and laugh through different activities. Each session is a unique combination of diverse activities providing distinct challenges. These sessions also provide them an opportunity for socialization as well for boosting their self confidence. Caregivers also try their hand at different enjoyable activities.
Raising awareness about dementia remains the most important challenge of the Clinic. Recognizing the importance of awareness the activities have always given importance to it. It is done through lectures, memory camps as well as exhibitions. Every year during the month of September Memory Clinic organizes an annual awareness program. The annual program brings together experts in the field of Medicine, Social Work, Psychology and Sociology among other fields who guide the caregiver community about the disease and the caregiving skills. You are welcome to visit Memory Clinic to understand how its activities can help you.
Centre for Brain and Spine Disorders
Phone - (020) 49153227, (020) 49153234
Mangala Joglekar – 9011039345
For more information about our activities visit www.Alzsupportpune.org