BEIRUT: In an act to raise awareness and to reassure people with dementia that they are not alone, the Alzheimer's disease International (ADI) organzatoin in collabroation with the Alzheimer's Association Lebanon (ADI), hosted its third MENA Regional conference on September 27 at Monroe Hotel, Beirut.
According to the WAR 2019 report, 62 percent of healthcare practitioners still believe that dementia is part of normal aging. The report also reveals that one out of four people think there is nothing they can do to prevent dementia. This accentuates the urgent need for governmental initiatives to train and raise more awareness on the subject.
"We would love to see an action plan in Lebanon," said Paola Barbarino, CEO of ADI.
Alzheimer's disease, which was first mentioned by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, is the most common cause of dementia (55 percent). It destroys brain cells and nerves and accordingly, leads to disrupting the job of transmitters that carry messages to the brain, including those responsible for storing messages.
"Goal-setting with patients and their families is crucial in providing care for the frail individual," noted Dr. Georges Assaf, representing the Lebanese Society for Geriatric Medicine. He defined frailty as a "clinically recognizable state of increased vulnerability resulting from aging-associated decline in reserve and function across multiple physiologic systems."
Assaf also indicated that frailty increases the risk for developing negative health outcome.
Abdel Wahab El Firikh, representative from the Order of Nurses in Lebanon, discussed agitation and aggression, two of the most troubling behavioral disturbances resulting from Alzheimer's disease. He explained that neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer's and other types of dementia are much more troubling than cognitive symptoms.
He also suggested ways for effective management of these disturbances, such as: identifying the genesis of the patient's abnormal behavior, structuring a daily routine for the patient, and replacing pharmacological therapy with aromatherapy and music therapy.
According to Rita Khoury, adult and geriatric psychiatrist, these disturbances are due to depression and anxiety in Alzheimer's patients.
"Depression and AD have a bidirectional relationship: depression is a risk factor for AD, and AD is a risk factor for depression," said Khoury. "Depression is not just a 'reaction' to the knowledge of having AD or the disability associated with it. Also, caregivers are the 'second patient' and are accordingly, prone to also facing depression."
Later panels tackled preventing cognitive decline through nutrition, day care programs, and physical activity. They also tackled services available in Lebanon, legal rights for patients, and the need for a dementia national plan. Recognition awards were later given to caregivers Betsy Mougharbel and Laura Boustany for their notable contributions to the dementia community.
The ADI is the umbrella organization of Alzheimer associations around the world, with the slogan: "Prevention, Care and Inclusion Today, and Cure Tomorrow."
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