"My father's memory deteriorates and he becomes increasingly suspicious. Is he suffering from dementia?"
What is dementia?
Dementia is a decline in brain function, caused by brain cell pathological changes. In addition to memory deterioration, other cognitive abilities, such as language, judgment, execution, calculation, and decision-making will also getting worse with time. These symptoms will affect their daily activities and behavior.
Patients will become more and more forgetful. It is difficult for them to learn new information. They may have difficulty even with trivial matters in their life. They often lost their wallets or keys, they can't remember their phone numbers, have trouble with calculation, forgeting the date and place, and forget to turn off the fire when cooking. They might forget that they have just finished their meal. They cannot find their seats after going to toilet inside a restaurant; and they would often repeat what they had said.
They will gradually lose their ability to take care of themselves, such as not knowing how to take a bath or going to the toilet; they might have increase difficulty in expressing themselves.
Behavioral and psychological symptoms (BPSD)
As symptoms getting worse, they might feel frustrated or even feel hopeless about their condition. That might result in low mood or increase anxiety. In addition, they tend to become increasingly suspicious. They might suspect others for taking their belongings. They might develop delusions that their relatives are trying to harm them.
List of symptoms of dementia complicated by psychosis
Delusion of relatives taking their belongings.
Delusion to relatives trying to harm them.
Delusion of being abandoned.
Delusion that one's thoughts are known to others.
Delusion of spouse having an extra-marital affair.
Hear non-existing voices (not heard by others) and talk to the air.
See people or objects that do not exist.
Note: If the above items continue to occur, whether it is delusions or hallucinations, it is already a symptom of psychosis and should be checked as soon as possible.
How to treat dementia?
Treatment with medication can help control the symptoms such as delusions and mood swing.
Types of medication that can be used include:
Medications for dementia can delay brain degeneration
Other psychiatric drugs
When behavioral or emotional problems cause significant distress to patients or their caregivers, doctors will consider prescribing psychiatric medication to relieve the symptoms . Commonly used medication such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative medications, sleeping pills and mood stabilizers, etc.
Non-drug therapy, such as reality orientation, reminiscence therapy, cognitive training, multi-sensory stimulation and other behavioral therapy, can improve the behavior and emotional problems of patients.
IS DEMENTIA COMMON IN HONG KONG?
1 out of every 10 elderly people aged 70 or above in Hong Kong suffers from dementia, and the prevalence rate increase as people gets older.