Neurologists and physicians all over the country must adopt standard national dementia guidelines to diagnose and treat Alzheimer and dementia patients in Pakistan. These guidelines have been endorsed by the leading neurologists of the country and are the official guidelines of the Pakistan Society of Neurology.

Health experts stressed while addressing the participants of a community awareness seminar held at Shifa International Hospital (SIH) organized to mark World Alzheimer’s Day. The day is celebrated every year around the world on September 21 (today). The consultants also arrange a separate seminar for physicians and clinicians to educate them on dementia diagnosis and management.

Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects elderly people, with the prevalence of the disease increasing with age. After the age of 65, the prevalence of dementia doubles with every 5 years’ increment in age, said  consultant Neurologist at SIH Prof. Arsalan Ahmad during his presentation on “Alzheimer’s disease in Pakistan”.

He said dementia is a progressive deterioration of intellect, behavior and personality. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, he stated. Approximately around 8 million people are above 65 years of age in Pakistan. Among them 160,000 to 240,000 are currently affected by dementia, out of which 80,000 to 120,000 probably have Alzheimer’s disease, Prof. Arsalan maintained.

He said currently 35.6 million people across the globe are affected with dementia and Alzheimer and it was expected that the number will increase to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.

Prof. Arsalan was of the view that the disease can be controlled only through giving due importance to dementia at administrative, educational, and healthcare forums as a chronic illness that is going to have substantial impact on society, health care providers and health budget.

He said we can manage dementia only by looking for early symptoms of dementia, identifying the type of dementia, excluding reversible causes of dementia, and rationalizing laboratory investigation and neurological imaging. “Do not underestimate depression,” he warned.

‘Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are going to be a major issue as our life expectancy rises. And early diagnosis and early treatment is a must’. He said team work, resolving caregivers’ issues, and educating family physicians, medical students and general public will help in managing dementia.

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Wahab Yousafzai presented on “behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD)”. He talked about the diverse range of psychological reactions, psychiatric symptoms, and behaviors occurring in people with dementia. He particularly stressed on the need to identify the range of behaviors in dementia and possible causes of these behaviors. Dr. Wahab said that 80 to 90 percent of patients develop at least one distressing symptom during the course of their dementia.

He said BPSD can result in stress in caregivers, increased emergency visits; prolonged hospital stays, increased use of medications and decreased quality of life for patient and caregiver. Persons with dementia progressively lose their coping abilities and therefore perceive their environment as more and more stressful, he remarked.

Consultant Neurologist Dr. Azhar Saeed gave his presentation on “diagnosing dementia”. He said decline in intellectual function that includes memory impairment is one of the symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects short term and long term memory, emotions, mood, behavior and language of the patient. He said the disease makes doing usual tasks like cooking, cleaning, and driving difficult for the patients. It can affect simple tasks like eating, walking or dressing. But the symptoms worsen over time.