Mental Health Dementia Research Breakthroughs
New research to help life with dementia
Dementia is an incredibly distressing condition, both for the person, often elderly, who is enduring it, and for their friends and family. As the illness progresses, the patient's memory can mean that he or she does not recognise even the most intimate members of their families.
Now there is new hope, with research breakthroughs that may promise better mental health care for all people with dementia. Scientists in Australia, in work reported in The Lancet Neurology, used special scans to find out who was likely to develop dementia, many years before any symptoms were detected.
The idea is to treat people early, with drugs that are already available, and that might mean that men and women who otherwise would suffer from dementia can avoid most of its symptoms altogether. Naturally, these are early days, and of course, it's just a single trial. What's more the brain scan involved is expensive, but the results could mean significantly improved quality of life for anyone likely to develop dementia.
One problem at the moment, is that by the time dementia is detected and diagnosed, it is simply too late for the available medication to have a long-term permanent effect. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the potential outcome.
Another group of scientists, at Nottingham University in England, have been using mice in their research, to inflict the same damage on the rodents' brains that happens in humans. They regard this as a breakthrough in itself, because they believe it will allow them to develop new drugs, using mice in experimental laboratories.
Their idea is that now they have replicated how the human brain is changed by one of the commonest forms of dementia, they can begin to work out how to repair that damage. It may be a long haul, but medical breakthroughs always involve a step-by-step approach. And anyone who has been through distressing times with a relative who has dementia will welcome research that can help future generations.
Mental health treatment is simply getting better all the time for those with just about any variety of dementia. One issue is society's attitude to all forms of mental illness. It's still stigmatised in most countries of the world, including the United Kingdom and the USA.
The first and major breakthrough for anyone who believes they may have dementia is to visit their personal doctor. If the research about early treatment is proven right, then the sooner that medication can be regularly administered, the better it will work.
The trouble has been that simply acknowledging that one has mental problems leads to old-fashioned assumptions about that person. The critical advice is to put those assumptions aside, and to acknowledge that periods of memory loss are beginning to happen. Medical practitioners believe that, as researchers work on these important new breakthroughs, this is the way people can help look after their own mental health.
Institutions that deal with severe cases of dementia are a long way removed from how they were in the past. When a patient is unable to live independently, because their memory has deteriorated to the extent that he or she is unable to perform the most ordinary of daily tasks, then a family has to take the difficult decision to let the professionals take over.
At first this may involve a carer at home. Later though, a move to a residential home is the only answer. A loss of memory may mean that critical medication isn't being taken. Or that too much of it is being taken. A specialist home is likely to mean a longer and richer life for the person involved, and far less distress for their family.
Each year brings new breakthroughs in dementia research. And there is real hope now that this terrifying and debilitating condition will be more easily treatable in the near future.
Ashtonleigh care home is an elderly residence in West Sussex which includes providing care for those with mild dementia conditions. Run by a dedicated team of qualified RMN mental health and psychiatric nursing professionals and owned by Kathy and Gaj Ragunathan who are dedicated in providing a first class nursing experience.