Depression, Dementia and Diabetes – Co-existing Disorders and Aged Care

Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia are documented as co-existing disorders that require special training in preventative aged care.  A recent medical report in Oxford Journals, Family Practice determined that an impoverished situation in youth resulted in poorer cognitive abilities directly related to those living conditions.  People who grew up in poverty were more likely to exhibit symptoms of dementia than those who grew up in wealthier homes.  These same people are more likely to be placed in residential homes than those who receive in home care.  The rate of dementia co-existing with depression in those who live in residential homes is consistently higher in multiple studies around the world.  The onset of adult diabetes typically follows the dual disorders.  Researchers were reluctant to state the causal relationship between poverty in youth and the increase of these co-existing disorders among patients in residential facilities who were raised in moderate-income homes but disintegrated when in institutional care.  What they did find is that people with even mild dementia are aware that there is something wrong with their memory.  This is likely to spur a bout of depression, which spirals into chronic depression as the client loses self-esteem due to the dementia.  The client typically snacks on unhealthy foods or non-food sources – many resort to eating soap or face cloths as their mind deteriorates. 

image source: columbia.edu

image source: columbia.edu

Some of the first common signs of dementia include having difficulty doing normal tasks such as balancing a checkbook, writing a note or following a recipe that is in front of you.  Another early symptom is the aggressive behavior and agitation.  These are thought to be a response to the inability of the client to control their own mood swings and frustration directed at themselves.  Depending on what the underlying cause of the dementia is will influence the outward behaviors.  Some forms of dementia cause people to be rude and vulgar. Other forms affect impulse controls and a person with this might act sexually inappropriate.  A third causes a person to hallucinate and the potential for falling increases. 

image source: healthtap.com

image source: healthtap.com

Lack of a proper diet in the elderly can result in diabetes or hypoglycemia.  Early research studies indicate that dementia and lack of nutrients that stimulate brain activity are intimately related but not to the exclusion of other factors.  The intake of folic acid, vitamins B-6 and B-12 in higher than average doses appears to lower a certain amino acid that is related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Stimulating mental activities such as writing, doing puzzles, playing an instrument or learning a language help to decrease the progress of dementia if not delaying it.  Group fitness routines that require increased physical activity delay the dementia onset and increase endorphin levels that diminish depression.   The social activity is an important element of aged care for the best possible extension of healthier living. A home carer should be trained to expect that if there is dementia there is a high probability of chronic depression that a client may be unable to discuss.  Additionally, special care should be taken to ensure that the client is actively participating in social exercises and brain-stimulating activity. 




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