70% mistake dementia for normal aging: group
By Joy Lee, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Seventy percent of people mistake signs of dementia as symptoms of the normal aging process, according to Taiwan Alzheimer's Disease Association (TADA).
February 12, 2013, 3:45 am TWN
TADA also discovered that 13 percent of people have never heard of dementia and only 3 percent of people claimed to truly understand the condition.
TADA Secretary-General Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said that people's unfamiliarity with dementia, which is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities, could cause patients to not seek treatment at the most optimum point.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia would help postpone elderly people's degeneration,” Tang said.
According to TADA's statistics, nearly 20 percent of people do not bring elderly family members who have dementia out with them to avoid potential humiliation caused by their behavior.
Tang said that if dementia patients do not have enough social interaction, it may result in a worse and faster degeneration.
Hsu Wen-chuin (徐文俊), director of the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Dementia Center, said that those who are diagnosed early on in the course of the disease and increase their social activities, as documented over the past 10 years, can successfully postpone the full onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by, at most, 10 years.
Hsu said that there are some easy activities and changes in lifestyle that the elderly can do as ways to delay degeneration, including playing chess or mahjong and exercising more often.
Ill-informed notions about dementia may not only affect patients and their family members' daily lives, according to Tang, they may also cause conflicts between work and family.
Tang said that during the family reunions of Chinese New Year, people should take time to pay attention to any possible dementia signs in elderly family members such as short-term memory loss, losing one's sense of direction or getting lost in familiar places, as well as signs of paranoia.
“If there are signs of dementia (with an elderly person),” Tang said, “people should be alert and schedule the person to visit a hospital for detailed evaluation.”
According to TADA's statistics, published earlier this year, among Taiwan's population of 23.3 million, about 20,000 people under the age of 65 suffer from dementia.
Judging from the nation's rapidly aging society, TADA predicted that dementia will become the next biggest disease after cancer and will consume large amounts of social resources in the future.