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Experts seek early diagnosis to beat decline in mental ability

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As part of activities to mark the World Alzheimer’s Day (WAD), September 21, Gabi-Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation (GWAF), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has called for early diagnosis of dementia by medical practitioners for proper care and management of the patient. This measure if taken, according to the foundation, would help reduce the inexorable rise of the disease cases in Nigeria, Africa and the entire world.

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

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GWAF, in its World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day message signed and made available to the press by Ms. Olaotun Williams –a trustee of the Board of the outfit, said some of the concerns about Alzheimer include the fact that it is conventionally diagnosed only when a person’s cognitive decline impairs daily functioning and is characterised by cortical amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. She said that the disease progresses in three distinct stages namely early, middle and late, that from early into the middle stage, limitations become clearer and more impacting on normal function with the sufferer becoming dependent on help and having severe memory disturbances and physical symptoms.

It further pointed out that dementia is being under-diagnosed and is not a normal part of aging but very common in people from 65years and above, noting, however, that by the time of diagnosis, patients are already at a late stage of the disease process. In addition, it emphasised that dementia is typically progressive and irreversible unless a cause is identified and treated effectively and at the same time. She made it clear that each person is affected in a different way with the speed of deterioration varying from person to person.

Currently, the foundation said there is no single cure to alter the progression of dementia and that people living with the disease are usually treated symptomatically with pharmacological or psychosocial interventions.

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GWAF said it has been undertaking and stepping up interventions and public awareness campaigns on Alzheimer. These, it said, include dementia community awareness programmes, training, and capacity building for stakeholders, caregivers, and families of Alzheimer’s patients.

The foundation, this year held a series of zoom forums occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at training GWAF members who are themselves carers to improve the quality of care being provided for people living with dementia.

One of the forums witnessed a robust discussion titled, “COVID-19 & Dementia: A Public Health Crisis For People Living With Dementia & Their Caregivers”. The latest forum was GWAF 2020 Memorial Lecture titled. “Caring for the Carers II” held on September 11 to mark late Dr. Gabi Williams birthday. Prof. Jide Gabi-Williams, GWAF’S Board of trustee’s secretary, delivered the virtual lecture, which was streamed on social media.

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