Dementia, specifically Alzheimers disease, is one of the most prevalent neuropsychiatric conditions in the country. In fact, a new case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds. Currently, the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 47.5 million and is projected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030. The number of cases of dementia is estimated to more than triple by 2050. Although there may be little we can do to prevent the increase in Alzheimer disease, we can focus on the best care and living environments for those that do develop it.
Increase in earlier diagnosis
Alzheimer?s is usually very difficult to diagnose. You cannot visually view the brain and its changes. You often cannot see physical changes to the brain with traditional diagnostic imaging. Alzheimer?s disease and other dementias are usually diagnosed with a physician evaluation. They will look for common symptoms of forgetfulness. Their condition may be monitored for a long time, until an actual dementia diagnosis is given. Increasing the frequency of neuropsychiatric evaluations for those with a history or multiple symptoms of dementia may be an important part in reducing the severity of them.
Better living situations
A large percentage of seniors living with some type of dementia require some amount of living assistance. Parents or adult children may become primary caretakers. If this is not a possibility, seniors may be sent to an inpatient mental health facility. However, residency in an inpatient mental health facility may not be the best choice for neuropsychiatric conditions. Instead, seniors dealing with dementia disorders tend to do better in compassionate psychiatric hospitals. There are many differences between the two types of facilities.
Dementia specific care
A traditional inpatient mental health facility tends to house a variety of mental disorders. Because dementia is so unique from other mental health disorders, it may be more helpful to reside in a dementia specific care. Dementia patients and others with neuropsychiatric conditions usually require different care and different daily activities. They may also require different medical assistance needs. Activities such as art therapy, music, and exercise can be beneficial in decreasing the symptoms of dementia.
To tell or not to tell debate
Another common debate among neuropsychiatric conditions is whether or not the patient should be told of their disease. Neuropsychiatric conditions cause the patient to forget many things, including the existence of the disease. Is there any benefit to telling them? There may be. It may allow them to be more involved in their care plan. They can provide recommendations and preferences as to which specific dementia care facility they go to. They can also increase their daily activities, in hopes of slowing down the progression.
Only about 45% of people with Alzheimer?s disease report being told of the diagnosis. This is generally a decision that should be made among the family, with important mental health and neuropsychiatric input. Always evaluate the progression of the dementia and the current mental status of the patient. If Alzheimer?s runs in the family, consider creating a care and notification plan. Discuss your treatment options and the amount of knowledge you would want, if one day, you were also diagnosed with a type of dementia.
Dementia is extremely common, especially among seniors in the United States. There is still a lot of debate around the best care and ethics of informing a dementia patient of their diagnosis. The research is still somewhat limited and we have a lot of progress to make. If you or a loved one is currently dealing with dementia, consider the best living arrangement for their specific needs. If you have a strong genetic component to dementia, it may be beneficial to establish your desires and preferences early on. Hopefully, the future will bring new research that is helpful in earlier diagnosis, a better understanding of the disease, and the answers to many ethical decisions.