HEALTH TOPICS
AND INSPIRATION FOR HARD TIMES
What is dementia?

The short answer is that it is any deterioration of the brain that causes regression into perhaps a childlike or unpredictable state of mind. This article will present a laymans observations of the condition.

1. Overview:
Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases, such as Altzheimers, Pick's disease or simply aging. This article will mainly cover Pick's disease, as close observance was made of a patient suffering from this condition, with the observations starting 10 years before the onset of the disease, when the patient was in perfect health, and continuing until his death. Many of the symptons and behaviour caused by the disease are similar across all types of dementia.

2. Physical causes and effects.
Pick's disease is a deterioration of the frontal lobe of the brain. Altzheimers apparently affects the back of the brain. Certain areas of the brain seem to break down into a fluid. This is a process, during which more and more of the brain's functions are impaired or destroyed. Depending on the individual, this could first affect his emotions, memory and inhibitions, and as the disease progresses, it starts affecting the involuntary functions such as bladder, renal, breathing, heart and so on. Eventually adult nappies have to be worn. Weight gain can occur unless his eating is closely controlled, but in a home situation this can be almost impossible. Even with controlled eating, the changes in the body also cause weight gain.

3. Early symptons.
Short term memory loss is an early sympton, coupled with out of character behaviour. May take twice as long to go to the store up the road. A man gives the impression of "having an affair" as he may disappear for quite a few hours and have no explanation as to where he was.  Will find it gradually more difficult to tackle familiar everyday tasks like fixing a kettle or sorting out the garden.

4. Behavioural changes.
Pick's disease is closely related to Altzheimers disease, but with slightly differing symptons. The patient is usually less agressive. He regresses to childlike behaviour where he likes to "go for a ride,"  finds boyish things like big busses and trains fascinating. he has no sense of responsibility and does not worry about finances or traffic fines. Driving rapidly deterioates to a dangerous and reckless level. Spends money with gay abandon. Chats up ladies with no inhibitions, even though married. Totally forgets anniversaries and shows no interest in them. Has little or no emotions, especially loving or kind acts towards his spouse, but is otherwise happy and carefree. Will wander off and get lost within minutes if not watched. Develops compulsive behaviour: the patient incessently combed his hair.

5. How to care for the patient.
The patient must, of course, be treated with respect, but since they are childlike, a very firm approach must be used towards them. They must be told in no uncertain terms what to do, and the threat of removal of privileges seems to help in controlling their behaviour. They must be kept busy with things that they can do, such as polishing shoes, making beds, painting - one needs to try them with a task and see how they manage, bearing in mind that their abilities are constantly changing with time. Don't let them drive if they are unable to.

6. Outlook.
Sufferers of Pick's disease usually live for 4 to 7 years after diagnosis. Altzheimer patients can live for up to 28 years after diagnosis. If the cause is simply aging, it appears to shorten the lifespan, but it's hard to tell if it is the dementia or simply the natural course of old age. Great strides have been made in the medication available to treat these diseases, and a large amount of government money has been allocated to research.

5. Help and Support groups for carers.
As this sort of disease is quite widespread and common, there are numerous support groups and helpers, wherever you may live. Often a search of the phone book or a Google search will yield results. Assistance is definitely needed, as the person caring for a patient of this nature can become totally exhausted, especially as the disease can last for 10 or 15 years. There are institutions where the patient can go for the day, where they are cared for and given things to do to occupy them happily. This gives the carer time to recover and gather their thoughts, and take care of themselves.

Dementia is quite a sad situation, as loved ones feel they have "lost" their family member even though he is still with them. But there are lighter moments, and with the help of friends, family and support groups, the burden is a lot lighter. Life does go on!
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Living with Amputated Legs

My Dad lost both his legs in the second world war. He was fighting in Italy, near Messina, when him and two friends stood on an anti-personnel mine. My Dad had one leg off at the knee, and the other one above the knee, about mid-thigh. He had shrapnel embedded in his hands and arms for his whole life.

A couple of days later, in hospital, my Dad realised that he had a decision to make: he either had to decide to make the best of what life had given him, or he could decide to feel sorry for himself and the unfairness of life and become a miserable person. He decided to make the best of his life.

He married, had four kids, drove a car, built me a treehouse 3 metres up a tree, swam in the sea, held down a regular job at a timber importer, took the family camping, became chairman of the St Giles association for the handicapped, was an elder in the church, ran their finances, donated over 50 pints of blood, and serviced his own car.

He could walk on his artificial legs, without a stick, carrying two cups of tea for him and my Mom, until he got quite a bit older and his balance wasn't so good.

I wouldn't have swopped him for any other able bodied dad. He was the best there was.

So if you are in the same situation, I just want to tell you - the sky's the limit. You have the potential to be a force for good in the world -- and like my Dad, you can use your disability to get into places and affect people in a way that no able bodied person could ever do. My Dad had a hood that he was allowed to put over parking meters - he could park anywhere for free! More than once we were allowed to park in the mayors parking spot!!

When you have this sort of disability, you can pull people's legs and joke with them in the most reckless way, and get away with it! Very few people will hit someone with no legs - it makes them look like the worst type of bully. I've seen my Dad dealing with aggressive drunks, and they never touched him, even though they had been smashing holes in doors just minutes before.

My Dad's attitude was to always look for the good in other people. There's always some good in there somewhere. I think that that made a big difference in people's attitude towards him.

So be encouraged. There's an amazing amount of things that you can do without legs. My Dad had a pair of flippers made by the guys at the "Limb Factory" (the prosthesis unit at the local hospital) and he used them to go body surfing. That was when he was in his fifties! The flippers were in the back of the car when I went for my drivers test, and the traffic officer was so interested in these things that he passed me, even though my driving was not so good!

Humor helps tremendously in these circumstances. My Dad liked the joke about the guy with 3 eyes, no arms and one leg standing at the bus stop. The bus driver pulls up, and says to him "Aye aye aye, you look 'armless; hop on!" If you can laugh at yourself and see the funny side of even the worst circumstances, they are easier to bear. It helps people around you to relax too, which in turn helps you to feel more "normal."

Phantom feet worried my Dad quite often. This is the feeling that you've got feet, and they are itching, or sore, or aching.  He took that as it came, and it passed after a couple of minutes.

Nowadays there are so many new materials available that prevent chafing and blisters on the stumps. Prosthetic limbs have come a long way as well with bendable carbon fiber materials, which my Dad never had. But an indomitable spirit can overcome many obstacles.

Decide to make the best of life.

Life can still be a whole lot of fun!
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Colonoscopy : A Patient's Perspective Of A "Bum Cam"

A Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a camera device is inserted through a patient's anus into their lower intestinal tract, to inspect the large intestine and colon area for any polyps, cancerous growths or other abnormalities. The procedure is carried out by a specialist physician, usually under full anaesthetic, and it usually requires that you are admitted to hospital in the "Day Clinic." You should be able to go home the same day.

Due to the anaesthetic, you will be unable to drive and so you will need someone to take you home.

Note to the squeamish: in order to make the following sequence of events clear, it is necessary to be somewhat graphic in the descriptions.

The events you will go through are as follows:

1. You will be told not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior to the procedure EXCEPT:
2. ..You will be given Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts) which you must mix with 140ml (Just over half a cup) of water. You should drink this at least 6 hours before you admit yourself to the hospital day clinic. You have to drink this vile mixture followed by 3 glasses of water.
3. This acts as a purgative. Now a purgative, for those not in the know, is what will give you the runs, so within half an hour of drinking this, you will be on the toilet, and expect to stay there for about 2 to 3 hours! They expect you to go to the loo at least 10 times. Your stool will eventually be running like water.
3. Once this violent purgative slows down, after about 3 to 5  hours, your so called "stool" should be almost clear liquid. This means that your bowels are clear.
4. Once you book yourself into the hospital day clinic, and have signed all the forms, the nurse will again take your blood pressure and pulse.
5. You will be given a hospital gown of the type that fastens at the back with little strings, and hospital underwear, which is one of those "one size fits all" kind of stretchy blue things.
6. Once they are almost ready for you, they will inject you with a "pre-med" in the buttock, which will make you feel a little dizzy. If you feel really bad, and start to sweat, call the nurse immediately, as this means your blood pressure has dropped too much, and she will then take action to make you feel better.
7. After about half an hour, they will take you to the theater, where you will receive another injection in the arm to put you out.
8. The specialist will then inspect your colon, and once he is satisfied, you will be taken back to the ward, where you were, to recover. A drip will be attached to your arm once you are finished.
9. After about another half hour you should wake up.
10. You should be brought tea or coffee and a sandwich once you are awake enough to eat, and once you have eaten and drunk something, the drip will bwe removed from your arm.
11. You can then, if you are feeling OK, get dressed in your clothes again, and your spouse or assistant can drive you home. You shouldn't drive or operate machinery for at least 12 hours after an anaesthetic.

There is very little pain involved: 2 injections which are not that bad, and the inconvenience of the artificial diarrhea that you suffer.

After this procedure, over the next 24 hours, you may suffer from a lot of winds, some stomach cramps and so on, as your system returns to normal. This is nothing to worry about, but it is advisable, for 12 hours or so,  to release your winds on the loo. Otherwise you may get more than you bargained for, due to the fact that the magnesium sulphate solution is still draining out of your lower system.

You can eat and drink normally as soon as you leave the hospital.

Apart from this there are no other problems, except for a little tenderness of your lower abdomen, and a feeling of lethagy and slight dizzyness from the anaesthetic.

This is a very useful procedure, and helps the specialist doctors tremendously in early detection of disorders of the colon.