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On A Practical Note

This afternoon I visited a couple, husband and wife in their 70’s. The wife called me because she is worried about her husband’s memory loss. Over a cup of tea and some really nice homemade biscuits, a story unfolded of more and more blank moments, him giving up taking responsibility for their nances and not being able to engage with his clients any longer. I could see that this was causing a lot of stress for them both.

Whilst he was trying to tell me about his general health, his wife told him “That is not relevant”. I encouraged him to tell me everything, which I could see was not what she had planned. We chatted about how he felt in general and what his sleep pattern was like. It transpired that he has a problem with having to get up at night to go to the toilet, sometimes up to five in one night. This is something new. He also then mentioned that he lost about ten kgs in just the last year. The red lights started going on for me. Not dementia lights… urinary tract infection, lack of sleep, weight loss and depression lights.

This is a lethal combination of events, which all four together would cause an impaired homeostasis. This could present with “symptoms” very similar to that of dementia, and if it goes untreated will cause damage in the long run. Dementia is a diagnosis by exclusion, and these four issues are but a few of the typical things that need to be eliminated before a discussion about dementia is entertained. The same goes for delirium, which often presents with the exact same behaviours as that of someone living with dementia, and often is wrongly diagnosed.

I could feel the relief in the room by the end of our conversation. Not that I am saying he has NOT got dementia, but given what I have heard, it would be unlikely that his other problems are not the cause of his state of mind. In fact, a fifth red light went on when I asked him what he does with himself every day, and his wife gave the answer “he is bored, and that is driving him out of his mind”. I asked her to repeat what she said, and the penny dropped. If you don’t use it, you lose it….and while I strongly recommend that the expertise of a medical professional is sought, I also highly recommend a few immediate interventions:

  1. Find something meaningful to do – they live within walking distance from the beach and go and pick up some plastic off the beach every day to also get exercise.
  2. Get involved with charity work – it will take your mind away from your own problems and see the bigger picture.
  3. Do a gratitude journal every day, writing down three things for which you are grateful every night before you go to bed.
  4. Eat healthy foods and drink one glass of red wine every night.
  5. Find a time and a place for quiet time/meditation every day, or listen to soothing classical music for at least one hour every day.
  6. Socialise – go out, meet new people, visit with friends.

It is so simple, and yet we are so reluctant to work on our brain health. I am very excited to see how he progresses….

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