Month after month, Health chooses topics that deserve special attention from the population. With the arrival of Purple February, attention is turned to chronic diseases, those without a cure, including Alzheimer’s.
This neurodegenerative disease that causes a decline in cognitive functions has no cure, but treatment is offered by the public health network. The patient suspected of having the disease should look for the basic health unit (UBS) closest to home to receive a diagnosis from the Family Health team.
If the doctor assesses that the patient has dementia, he or she is included in geriatrics regulation and begins to be monitored and treated. This care involves the prescription of medications to slow the progression of the disease and also the support of a multidisciplinary team that ranges from speech therapists to physiotherapists and psychologists. All family and clinical support is important, and these professionals and caregivers must also receive attention from therapists to deal with the disease in the best way possible.
“There is an impression that we only focus on memory, but that is just one of the things affected. It can affect behavior, language, the person may have difficulty speaking certain words, naming objects, they may have difficulty understanding sentences to the point of reducing their ability to work and social relationships. The behavior is modified, the personality changes and she becomes increasingly dependent”, explains geriatrician Marcela Pandolfi from the Department of Health (SES-DF), president of the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SBBG-DF).
In addition to Alzheimer’s not being curable, the population should be aware that there are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for the disease. What cannot be changed is the person’s age, since aging is the main risk factor, and also the person’s genetics. On the other hand, there are 12 factors that, under action and treatment, can prevent the chances of developing dementia by up to 50%. They are: hypertension, education (always trying to learn something new), hearing impairment, smoking, alcoholic beverages, obesity, depression, diabetes, poor social interaction, air pollution and brain trauma.
The population should pay attention to the warning signs of the disease. The doctor specializing in geriatrics reinforces that some forgetfulness can be normal, when it does not generate a degree of dependence, but it is necessary to observe. “One of them is memory loss, when the patient frequently forgets important dates and asks the same thing several times. When it is occasional, it does not generate an alert, but if it is recurring, we have to pay attention”, details Marcela Pandolfi.
Other signs should also be observed, such as difficulty planning, solving problems, doing homework, changing ingredients, forgetting that you have already eaten and wanting to eat again, losing track of time and space and having language problems.
“The importance of the campaign is to raise awareness, both to combat false information and to support these people and families. It is important to observe and diagnose as early as possible; and, after the diagnosis, that this family receives support, whatever they need from the multidisciplinary team, so that the patient has a controlled disease and that the team can provide comfort to patients and families”, adds the doctor.
Another important guideline is that not all dementia means Alzheimer’s. This is the best-known form of dementia, but not the only one. It is important that a patient with impaired memory or changes in behavior is seen by a doctor. It is the clinical staff who will be able to carry out tests to differentiate the type of dementia, and only after diagnosis can the correct treatment be determined.