Tuesday, May 20, 2014

UNDERSTANDING DEMENTIA - something everyone should know

Dementia is not an illness invented in the 20th century, though it was in the early 1900s that Dr Alois Alzheimer recognized and gave his name to the most common form of Dementia. He observed that the brain of a demented (that is the correct term) person was shrunken. Subsequent research has shown how neurons die, and confirmed what Alzheimer recognized that Amyloid plaques in the brain, and tangles in the neurons disrupt and eventually destroy our cognitive functions.
One reason the disease was not widely seen in earlier centuries is that life expectancy was perhaps half of what it is today, and dementia is a disease mainly associated with older age groups (though not exclusively).
Shakespeare described King Lear being unable to recognize his daughter or his surroundings in his play of that name. No doubt the Bard was writing about a case he had witnessed.
One thing is certain, no one has natural immunity to dementia. Consider Ronald Regan, Charles Heston, Rita Hayworth, Perry Coma and Peter Falk - they all fell victim. It is a disease which no amount of money can cure or prevent.
At the present time, the processes are incurable therefore the best we can do is to learn more about it, how to cope with it and how best to care for those who are afflicted by it.
While Alzheimer’s Disease is classified as the fifth biggest killer today – it more likely ranks the third, as many who die from pneumonia probably die as a result of being unable to breath or swallow due to their Alzheimer’s illness.
The University of Tasmania (AU) offers a massive FREE OPEN on-line course which runs for 9 weeks. Averaging about 3 hours a week, it takes participants through the three major areas of concern – The Brain, The Disease, and The Person. There are no prerequisite qualifications and no exams (some short multi-question tests as you progress) or assignments. At the end of the 9 weeks you will receive a certificate of completion.
Having just finished the course, I have nothing but praise for the way it is delivered and presented and thoroughly recommend it to anyone irrespective of whether or not they, their family or friends are currently affected by Dementia.
To find out more and register your interest in the next course go to: http://www.utas.edu.au/wicking/wca/mooc

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