Dementia: A Broad Exploration

According to Alzheimer’s & Dementia Organization Kenya, Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is followed by Vascular Dementia, a condition that occurs after one is attacked by stroke.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general word that describes a wide spectrum of signs connected to deterioration in memory in addition to other thinking skills so severe that it cuts down an individual’s ability to carry out their daily duties.

The causes of dementia are however not attributed to the two illnesses only. At times dementia symptoms may be brought about by reversible factors for example thyroid complications or vitamin deficiencies. Often dementia is associated with senile dementia which is a wrong belief that severe mental decline is a part of the aging process.

Although signs of dementia can differ greatly, there are at least two basic mental operations that face huge impairments for it to be considered dementia. The functions may vary from memory which manifests in problems keeping up with the short-term memory. Short-term memory will remind a person of basic duties they are supposed to fulfill such as paying bills. Communication and language, a person's ability to stay keen, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception are functions likely to be affected by dementia too.

Causes and Risk Factors

Dementia is a result of damage to the brain cells. The damage spoils the ability of the brain cells to communicate. The lack of communication takes effect on thinking, behavior, and emotions. The brain has different segments performing different roles and therefore damage to one of the segments, for example, the memory section signifies that the cells in that region are unable to perform their functions. Dementia is in different types and the types attack different parts of the brain. For example, Alzheimer’s is commonly linked to memory loss which is one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s. The disease is associated with high levels of particular proteins inside and outside the brain cells which reduces the ability of the cells to stay healthy and communicate. The first part to be hit is the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that facilitates learning and memory.

Dementia is a result of damage to the brain cells. The damage spoils the ability of the brain cells to communicate. The lack of communication takes effect on thinking, behavior, and emotions. The brain has different segments performing different roles and therefore damage to one of the segments, for example, the memory section signifies that the cells in that region are unable to perform their functions. Dementia is in different types and the types attack different parts of the brain. For example, Alzheimer’s is commonly linked to memory loss which is one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s. The disease is associated with high levels of particular proteins inside and outside the brain cells which reduces the ability of the cells to stay healthy and communicate. The first part to be hit is the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that facilitates learning and memory.

The risk of dementia is made particularly high by some factors. There are reversible factors and non-reversible factors. The non-reversible factors include age and genetics, these are factors that cannot be shifted. However, there are other factors that one can avoid to prevent dementia.

The Alzheimer's and Dementia Organisation Kenya notes that the brain is fed by the body's richest network of blood vessels. That said damage to these vessels can be afflicted like in any other part of the body and therefore practices such as smoking should be reduced in addition to the proper maintenance of the recommended blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels

Demographic Preferences

According to a report by Mary Njoki on Dementia in Kenya, there are approximately 2.76 million Africans above 50 years old who live with dementia that accounts for 2.4% of Africa's population. In 2018 the World Health Organisation released a report on deaths and the position of Kenya in the effects of dementia. By 2018 dementia and Alzheimer's in Kenya had claimed 2,566 lives which is a 1.01% rate. The report shows Kenya to be at position 118 in the top 50 causes of death by dementia and Alzheimer’s in the world. 2015 statistics from the World Alzheimer's report show that about three people per  second contract the illness

For a long time, most people have believed that dementia is a complication brought about by old age and therefore no chance of the young being affected. Dementia affects the mind which hinders a person's ability to tackle their day-to-day roles and this makes it an issue for people of all ages. That is not the case however as revealed by Salome Chira a clinical officer based at-home healthcare.

The officer discloses that she has severally come across dementia patients at the age of 30. However, the disease is more prevalent among the elderly as they hold most cases. The preference demographics also include lifestyle practices that pose a risk of dementia, for example, consumption of alcohol, smoking, and depression among others.

Treatment, Prevention, and Control Measures

Dementia has reversible causes which if avoided the risk of illness reduces. People are in a position to reduce the risk of dementia attack by maintaining regular exercise schedules, avoiding smoking and the harmful consumption of alcohol, regulating weight, consuming a balanced and healthy diet, and maintain constant sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Globally there is no treatment available for dementia or one to reduce its progress. Despite, the lack of treatment some measures can be undertaken to make the lives of people fighting dementia and their loved ones easier. The following targets should be keenly abided by

The following targets should be keenly abided by

·       An early diagnosis which will help procure proper and timely management

·       Maximizing the physical health conditions of the sick, in addition to their cognitive activity and general well being

·       Diagnosing and handling any physical illnesses that may arise from the condition

·       Provision of detailed information to the caretakers and support services such as counseling

Prevention and control measures in Kenya may be harder, according to Mary Njoki there is a widespread lack of information on dementia. Secondly, there exists no diagnosis for depression, old age sickness, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure among others. Stigma is also a challenge in societies where the disease is considered witchcraft or a curse. Finally, there are no definite statistics on the number of victims affected by dementia. This reduces the effectiveness of lobbying for policies to be passed to help the victims and their caregivers.

Economic and Social Impacts

Dementia has no known cure currently and therefore all that can be provided is care to the patient. Dementia poses a huge economic burden to patients and their families to costs associated with direct medical attention as well as social care. The burden forces family and friends to take the initiative to give care since paying for the same is more expensive

A survey carried out by the United Nations in 2015 showed that the overall global societal expenses of dementia were approximately $818 billion which forms 1.1% of the global gross domestic product. In terms of the ratio of GDP between the low and middle-income nations and the developed nations, the overall expenses of Dementia are 0.2% and 1.4% respectively. The data on the economic impacts of Dementia in Kenya is not comprehensive hence no clear understanding of the disease's impact on Kenya's economy

Socially, dementia is responsible for the loss of work for the victims since their memory functions are not entirely active and reduction in work hours for members of the family providing care. Dementia damages brain cells and therefore there are changes in the behavior and emotions of a victim that limit their social life such as social interactions and their ability to get into relationships and sustain them.

The state of Kenya as a middle-income level country means a lot needs to be considered if at all enough education to the public and health workers on dementia is to be widely spread. That will be helpful in addition to data on victims in the country and the levels of their illnesses