Oman health: Palliative care could benefit treatment of patients with Dementia

Oman Saturday 15/October/2016 22:31 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman health: Palliative care could benefit treatment of patients with Dementia

Muscat: Palliative care can greatly help patients with dementia and help maintain and improve the quality of life as the disease progresses.
“The number of people living up to old age is increasing worldwide, this leads to more people developing multiple health problems, such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” according to Dr. Hamed Al Sinawi, senior consultant, old age psychiatry and assistant Head of Department for Behavioural Medicine at the SQU Hospital.
“In such cases, palliative care maintains the dignity of the patients and allows the care giver to be supported during their journey of care giving.”
According to international data, there are around 47 million people living with dementia worldwide. This number is projected to reach 65 million in 2030.
“In Oman as in other Arab countries, there are no specialised care facilities to look after people with dementia and the family becomes the main care provider.
“Contact with health facilities becomes limited to attending regular clinic appointments or admission to hospital if the patient develops acute health problems,” added Al Sinawi, who is also the Chairman Oman’s Alzheimer’s Society.
Alzheimer’s and other dementias cause deterioration of the brain functions that progress slowly, and so the patient ends up being bed ridden, needing full nursing care. “In some cases, a patient can live up to 12 years after the diagnosis, needing more and more care as they progress through the different stages, this is why dementia is often called ‘the long goodbye.’
“Families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and other dementias need a lot of support and assistance to cope with the different stages of the disease.”
Palliative care is specialised medical care for people facing serious illnesses, such as dementia. It is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists, who work together to improve quality of life for both the patient and his family.
According to Dr. Al Sinawi, palliative care teams are a very valuable resource for family caregivers, who often live under a lot of stress on a 24/7 basis.
“This is because a patient’s fading memory is gradually joined by the loss of hand-eye coordination, motor skills and the ability to dress and bathe making them fully dependent on others for the activities of daily living.
“People with dementia begin to not recognise hunger and thirst, and lose the ability to feed themselves and the ability to eat. With the progression of the disease caregivers have to face heartbreaking decisions when a patient can no longer eat or develops recurrent chest infections because of a poor ability to swallow leading to aspiration pneumonia.”
“Another challenge for caregivers is that dementia sometimes progresses slowly. This is made even harder because family members tend to get used to the slowly worsening ‘new normal.’”
Data indicates that people, who are taking care of loved ones with dementia, have a much higher risk of getting sick themselves, and so palliative care becomes a clear solution for patients with dementia.