Dementia Is Not Madness

There have been viral videos of aged people especially women who have been caught and mobbed by people all in the name of ‘madness’ or labeled as witches. In a society like ours, supernatural things are tagged with individuals who were found to be abnormal or doing abnormal things. Nigerians are quick to call people with mental disorder names and stigmatize then. Only a few are aware of mental health disorders including dementia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people worldwide have dementia, with nearly 60% living in low and middle-income countries. There are nearly 10 million cases reported every year. The estimated proportion of the general population aged 60 and over with dementia at a given time is between 5-8%. Studies have also shown that dementia will reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. This increase is said to be attributable to the rising numbers of people with dementia living in low-and middle-income countries of the world.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. It is usually of a chronic or progressive nature in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (I.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal aging. In a layman’s word, dementia is an umbrella term for forgetfulness in the aged even though it is not a factor in aging.

Dementia affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment. Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of cases.

Dementia is seen as Madness

Poverty plays a huge role in cases of dementia in this part of the world. Many old people are left at home without proper care from their children. Most of these people have no carers so they look untidy. Whenever people see this kind of aged people wandering and doing things that are not expected, our society always stigmatizes them. Some people say they might have killed their children by using them as sacrifices in their witchcraft meetings; as for them, this is the reason they wander around without anyone to care for them. When these aged people talk and people find it difficult to comprehend their speech, our people say they are confessing their evil deeds.

There was a viral video of a woman who left home and boarded a bus going to Lagos instead of Owerri to pay her children and unexpected visit. When she arrived in Lagos, she doesn’t know where to go and when she was questioned, she was saying so many things out of point. Her look and gesture made people think she’s mad or probably a witch. People mobbed her and were about to stone her when a good Samaritan took her to the nearest police station. This is just the belief of many on this matter. Few really don’t know dementia is not madness. There is often a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, resulting in stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care.

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. It can be overwhelming, not only for the people who have it but also for those who care for them and families. Dementia affects each person in a different way, depending upon the impact of the disease and the person’s personality before becoming ill. Dementia is usually of a progressive nature so the symptoms are always in stages. The common symptoms in stages are as follows:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing track of the time
  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Becoming forgetful of recent events and people’s name
  • Becoming lost at home
  • Having increasing difficulty with communication
  • Needing help with personal care
  • Experiencing behavior changes, including wandering and repeated questioning
  • Becoming unaware of the time and place
  • Having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
  • Having an increasing need for assisted self-care
  • Having difficulty waking
  • Experiencing behavior changes that may escalate and include aggression.
Causes of Dementia

Dementia can be caused by brain cell death, and neurodegenerative disease- progressive brain cell death. The later is seen in the case of Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia. It can be caused by a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, brain tumor, HIV infection, prion diseases, among other causes.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

This is the common cause of dementia. It accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 and older. The disease worsens over time as it is a progressive disease, where its symptoms worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

This disease has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and can only temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

According to research, dementia has also increased in Nigeria by over 400 percent over a 20-year period, from 63,500 in 1995 to 31, 8000 in 2015. It is not slowing down since then but increasing. Alzheimer’s been a common form had the highest prevalence, while other dementia subtypes had a prevalence rate of less than one percent. Its prevalence was highest in the North-central followed by Northwest and Southwest. The study also shows that the prevalence was higher in urban settings compared to rural settings.

Sign of Dementia

It is therefore important to be aware of this disease that has caused disability and death in many older people worldwide. If people are educated about this disease, it will be difficult to compare it with madness as seen in our society today. This will also lead to early diagnosis in order to promote early and optimal management of people with this disease. This will help to improve their lives and those of their caregivers and families.

Remember health is wealth, do yourself a favor by having a regular medical checkup and also attend to the need of others. Thanks for reading this piece.