GINA, GUYANA, Wednesday September, 28, 2016
Health care providers and caregivers who work with patients having mental health problems gathered at Cara Lodge today to observe World Alzheimer’s Day 2016. The Alzheimer’s awareness conference was held under the theme ‘Remember me’ which represents the global call of Alzheimer patients.
Geriatric and Gerontologist consultant, Dr. Ordelis Ramirez Gonzalez, told the gathering that there are various warning signs that would indicate that a person may possibly develop the Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of these warning signs include memory loss which can disrupt daily life, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps and changes in mood and/or personality. These can be simply outlined by the five A’s to Alzheimer’s diagnosis which are Amnesia, Anomia, Aphasia, Apraxia and Agnosia.
Amnesia refers to partial or total memory loss; Anomia is the patient’s inability to recall the name of basic items such as a family member, car, book, pen; Aphasia is brain damage which leads to the inability to produce or understand speech. Apraxia is when a person is unable to complete purposed actions, usually misusing objects and Agnosia is the inability to interpret and/or recognise sensations such as taste, sound and touch due to brain damage.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalised degeneration of the brain. Alzheimer’s was first identified by Psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1907. It is the most common cause of premature senility. The most common types of Alzheimer’s diseases are Parkinson’s disease, Dementia and Huntington’s disease among others.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s can be taken in three steps starting with a non- drug approach for mild cases, pharmacological treatment for moderate cases that show behavioral abnormalities and symptoms. A third step includes the input of caregivers giving support for counseling and therapy in severe cases.
In Guyana, persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can receive medical attention, support and treatment at the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Public Health. The unit is located in Quamina Street.
Director of the Mental Health Unit, Dr. Meenawattie Rajkumar recently told Government Information Agency (GINA) that the unit offers counseling and occupational therapy to these patients in a refurbished environment. She said that the unit is equipped with five psychiatrists, eight social workers and a pharmacy so that the patients can have easier access to treatment.
According to Rajkumar, the Ministry of Public Health intends to upgrade the GPHC’s psychiatric department to a specialised inpatient unit, housing patients according to their level of diagnosis. She said the aim of the unit is to break the stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other mental illnesses in Guyana
World Alzheimer’s Day is usually observed on September 21 of each year, since 2012. During the month of September, mental health organizations around the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia which is a group of disorders that impair mental functioning.
By Delicia Haynes