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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Zambakari

Empowering Minds: The Importance of Early Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Dementia

Dr. Christopher Zambakari, B.S., MBA, M.I.S., LP.D. Owner/Operator; Desert Haven Home Care, Apollo Residential Assisted Living, Villa Fiore Assisted Living-Prescott Valley

 

Under a single home care umbrella, Desert Haven Home Care, Apollo Residential Assisted Living, and Villa Fiore Assisted Living-Prescott feature unparalleled care, feature unparalleled care, service and advocacy in the compassionate treatment of senior citizens in need of medical attention. Offered in a familial setting, the facilities are teamed by professionals passionate about their work and fully engaged in the welfare of residents. Each facility proudly provides patient-centric supervisory, assisted and directed care, short-term respite stays and memory care support for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.


The following exploration of early diagnosis and prevention strategies that can work to retard the onslaught of dementia and any of its forms is one in a series of regular informational blogs relative to the field of service, care and the treatment of our elderly.

 

Dementia is the dark tunnel, a killer disease in our aging population that impacts the lives of millions of individuals and their families. The light at the end of this foreboding passageway is two-fold: early diagnosis, and a shared focus on prevention strategies and effective treatments. When we shine the light, we can make a significant difference in the mitigation of cognitive decline and improvement in the quality of life for those affected.


As the owner and operator of three Arizona-based assisted living residential care homes – Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix, Apollo Residential Assisted Living in Glendale, Villa Fiore Assisted Living-Prescott Valley – I am happy to share with you this top-line look at early diagnosis and prevention strategies can work to retard the onslaught of dementia in any of its forms, including Alzheimer’s.


Credit: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz / Shutterstock

The importance of early diagnosis of dementia

Early diagnosis is key in the fight against dementia.

  1. Facilitating timely interventions: Early diagnosis allows individuals to access appropriate treatments, therapies and support services that can potentially slow the progression of dementia and manage symptoms effectively. Early intervention can improve quality of life, delay functional decline, and provide individuals with the opportunity to participate in care planning. No single test can diagnose dementia; doctors, most likely will run a number of tests that can help pinpoint the problem. Says Dementia Australia: “The first step in the diagnosis process is to assess symptoms through a thorough medical history, physical examination and evaluation of memory and thinking abilities. Other causes of dementia-like symptoms must be ruled out through laboratory tests and in some cases, brain scans.”

  2. Promoting understanding and planning: Early diagnosis provides individuals and their families with a better understanding of the condition, enabling them to plan for the future, make informed decisions, and access necessary resources. It also empowers individuals to actively engage in their own care and take steps to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Says the Fox Valley Memory Project:Accurate diagnosis can provide you with a clearer picture of the existing symptoms and what other symptoms could be part of the disease process. Whether the symptom of memory loss turns out to be Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s dementia, depression or another diagnosis, treatment options may be available to reduce or alleviate symptoms [author’s italics].

Prevention strategies for cognitive decline and dementia

If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia, get a game plan and stick to it.

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Regular physical exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep contribute to overall brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Not smoking and moderation in alcohol intake will reduce the risk, not only of cognitive decline but also of cardiovascular troubles. Engaging in activities that challenge the mind, such as puzzles, reading and learning new skills, can also help preserve cognitive function. Even if there are no signs of dementia, a healthy lifestyle is a critical tool in your well-being. The National Institutes of Health advises: “Combining more healthy lifestyle behaviors was associated with substantially lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease in a study that included data from nearly 3,000 research participants. Those who adhered to four or all of the five specified healthy behaviors were found to have a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s [author’s italics].”

  2. Manage cardiovascular health: Cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as controlling blood pressure and managing diabetes, can have a positive impact on brain health. Mayo Clinic notes that, as part of managing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, regular health screenings important. Among the screenings recommended are blood pressure (at least once annually), cholesterol levels (once every four to six years) and Type 2 diabetes (every three years).

  3. Stay socially and mentally engaged: Maintaining social connections and engaging in stimulating activities, such as volunteering, hobbies and socializing with friends and family, can help prevent cognitive decline. As noted earlier, mental stimulation through lifelong learning, puzzles and brain exercises can also contribute to cognitive vitality.


Effective treatments and therapies for dementia

  1. Medication and symptom management: Various medications can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of certain types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals to explore suitable treatment options based on an individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

  2. Cognitive stimulation therapies: Cognitive stimulation therapies, such as memory training and reminiscence therapy, can help improve cognitive function, enhance memory recall and boost overall well-being in individuals with dementia. Medical News Today lists 22 brain exercises that may help boost memory, cognition and creativity, including meditation, visualization, playing memory games, socializing, listening to music and exercising.

  3. Supportive care and lifestyle adjustments: Providing a supportive environment and adapting the living space to cater to the needs of individuals with dementia can significantly improve their quality of life. This includes implementing memory aids, establishing routines and ensuring a safe and stimulating environment.


There’s no time like the present

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. It is a set of symptoms that develop when the brain is damaged by disease. Early diagnosis, prevention, and effective treatment strategies are key to combating the challenges posed by dementia. Recognizing the importance of early diagnosis, promoting preventive measures and implementing appropriate treatments, are significant steps in the mitigation of cognitive decline and improvement in the lives of individuals and their families.


We’re in this together when a loved one suffers dementia-like cognitive loss. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing cardiovascular health, staying socially and mentally engaged, and accessing appropriate treatments and therapies, we empower individuals to preserve their cognitive function and maintain independence. Prioritize early detection, embrace prevention strategies and support ongoing research to enhance our understanding and management of dementia. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by dementia and work toward a future with better cognitive health for all.


For more information, you can reach me or one of my team at info@deserthavenaz.com


 

About the Author

Dr. Christopher Zambakari is the owner and operator of three Arizona-based assisted living care homes – Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix, Apollo Residential Assisted Living in Glendale, and Villa Fiore Assisted Living in Prescott Valley, Arizona. He provides direction and oversight to a team of licensed medical and caregiving professionals to ensure the highest levels of customized care, service and advocacy at each of his facilities. Zambakari is founder and CEO of The Zambakari Advisory, an international consultancy in the areas of strategic intelligence, program design and transitional processes. He is a Hartley B. and Ruth B. Barker Endowed Rotary Peace Fellow, and the assistant editor of the Bulletin of The Sudans Studies Association.



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