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Dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease of the brain. There is decline in cognitive and intellectual function such as memory, comprehension, learning capacity, the ability to think and calculate, as well as language and judgment. Patients gradually deteriorate with impaired functioning in daily activities, some also with emotional and behavioural problems. According to a population-based study conducted jointly by the Elderly Health Service, Department of Health and the Department of Psychiatry, the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2005-2006, the prevalence of dementia among community elders aged 70 or above was 9.3%, with 15.3% for female and 8.9% for male.

Causes of dementia

  • Alzheimer's Disease: cause unknown, likely to be hereditary in nature, the most common type (about 65%)
  • Vascular Dementia: due to multiple minor strokes, affects about 30% of elders with dementia
  • Other causes: e.g. brain tumour, head injury, vitamin B 12 deficiency, drug and alcohol abuse, hypothyroidism and depression

Stages of dementia and common presentations

  • Early stage - memory loss with decreased ability to think
  • Intermediate stage - easily get lost, mood changes and behavioral problems, need assistance with daily activities
  • Late stage - language impairment, cannot recognize relatives, may become incontinent and totally dependent

Management

  • Seek early medical advice and treatment if there is suspicion of dementia.
  • Some drugs may improve memory and cognitive functions of patient with early Alzheimer's Disease. Non-cognitive symptoms such as depression, psychotic features and sleep problems may benefit from drug treatment as well. However, there is no cure for dementia.
  • Other treatment includes behavioral therapy, programmes to improve memory and cognitive function. Education and counseling to patients and carers are also important.
  • Carers of demented patient can attend health talks, support groups etc. to acquire more caring skills and stress management techniques.

Prevention

  • Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease is not yet known.
  • Multi-infarct dementia may be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, no smoking and no excessive drinking. Proper control of hypertension and diabetes mellitus is also essential.

Online videos: Dementia Series

Information Hotlines and Support Services related to "Mental Health"

Organization Telephone number Nature of services
Social Welfare Department
Hotline services
Family Services Centres
2343 2255 Social workers provide counseling, support, and referral services to carers of patients with dementia
Social Welfare Department
Carers Support Centre
2558 1623 Provide support services for those who need to take care of the elderly at home
Caritas Hong Kong
Carers Support Centre
2708 7700 - ditto -
Hong Kong Alzheimer's Disease Association 2338 1120 To Provide services to persons with dementia and their families including early detection service, day care service, in-home training and carer support group.
St James' Settlement
Caregiver Support Group
2835 4319 Provide training on caring techniques and counseling services
The Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation
Community Rehabilitation Network
Information Hotline on Dementia
2361 2838 Provide information on dementia and other chronic diseases, and community resources
Hospital Authority
Mental Health Hotline
2466 7350 Provide information on the psychiatric services provided by Hospital Authority and their referral channels
Mental Health Association of Hong Kong
Information Hotline
2722 0047 Provide information on mental health
Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing 2636 6323 Provide services on centre-based/ home-based assessment and training
Christian Family Service Centre (Mind Lock Memory & Cognitive Training Centre) 2793 2138 Provide services on centre-based/ home-based assessment and training