Look out for signs of Alzheimer’s among elderly persons – Dr Anthony

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony is urging people to look out for their elderly relatives as they age, as Guyana joins the rest of the world in observing September as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

The health minister explained that dementia is a group of diseases that could occur as persons get older, which causes impaired memory and hampers reasoning abilities and good judgement.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the main contributing factors to dementia.

“One of the biggest risk factors we find is really age, so as people age, these changes would occur in the brain and so you don’t find Alzheimer’s in persons perhaps younger than 60, if you do find that its quite rare, but you’ll find more people between, let’s say 60 and older who would present with memory loss and various types of other changes,” Dr Anthony said.

Statistics have shown that these diseases affect many people worldwide.

“The estimate right now is that one in six persons between 80 and 85 years of age would have Alzheimer’s or dementia. One in three persons above 85 would have Alzheimer’s, and one in two above 90 would have Alzheimer’s, so age is really an important factor here,” the health minister emphasised.

Family history also determines whether or not a person will eventually suffer from these illnesses.

An Elderly couple carrying out daily activities in Guyana

 Meanwhile, there are signs caregivers could look for when caring for the elderly.

“What we need to look at is initially the disease would present with very subtle changes. So, people start losing their memory gradually, they are not remembering things, you might say something to them, they forget what you have just said to them, they repeat themselves, so they may tell you something now, repeat that a little, a few minutes, so they can’t remember what they have said to you.”   

The minister noted that persons affected by the illness do not necessarily die from it, but because of the challenges they face in caring for themselves, these can cause secondary conditions that eventually cause death.

“It’s very important that if you find that an older relative or someone in your care is having these signs and symptoms, is for them to come to the hospital so that the doctors can make that diagnosis and probably advise on treatment and be able to give you better advice on how to care for these persons,” he said. Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is being observed under the theme ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’.