PARIS – People over 54 who suffer from steadily worsening depression may run a higher risk of developing dementia, according to research published Saturday, and it may be an early symptom. One-time or recurring types of depression do not appear to pose a similar threat. "Only the group whose symptoms of depression increased over time was at an increased risk of dementia," said a statement by The Lancet Psychiatry, which published the results. Doctors have previously noted a high correlation between depression and dementia in patients, though the nature of the relationship is not known. The new study claims to be the first to differentiate between types of depression.
Broadcaster Angela Rippon became an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society after caring for her mother Edna who had dementia, and who died in 2009. Educating children through dementia awareness programmes in schools is, she says the best way to improve understanding of the disease and support those who develop it. Finding out that these days most people over 50 are more concerned about, even frightened of dementia than they are of cancer, heart disease or stroke, comes as something of a surprise. Not because it isn't an unpleasant and heart breaking disease, because it is. But because, 10 years or so ago, dementia was an illness that most people knew very little about and as a result, quite frankly, rarely talked about at all - and certainly not in public on television, radio or in the national press.
A team for researchers from McGill University, Montreal, has published a research paper on how machine learning could be used to identify the early signs of dementia two years before symptoms start to show. The research paper, named'Identifying incipient dementia individuals using machine learning and amyloid imaging' describes how the researchers developed the algorithm using big data. This algorithm has been trained to find evidence of the protein amyloid, which is crucial to the development of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Clusters of amyloid accumulate on the brain of the patient, leaving mild cognitive impairment (MCI) years or even decades before the onset of any symptoms occur. Because so many elderly people have some kind of amyloid accumulation, identifying a patient who is pathopsychologically at risk of developing dementia has been a "significant challenge" for researchers.
The government aims to train some 12 million people nationwide by the end of fiscal 2020 to give support to dementia patients, informed sources said. The new numerical target will be included in the "Orange Plan" national strategy on dementia care, compiled chiefly by the health ministry in 2015, the sources said Friday. Anyone can become a supporter for dementia sufferers after completing training programs offered by a local government or a company. The government initially set the goal of training 8 million people to give support to dementia patient by the end of fiscal 2017, which started April 1. But it raised the target because as of the end of fiscal 2016 8.8 million people had already become supporters, the sources said.
The welfare ministry plans to launch a project in fiscal 2019 to provide better aid to dementia patients by matching them with volunteer supporters, informed sources said. The project will include providing subsidies to coordinators that connect dementia patients and their families with supporters who would, for instance, tag along when they go out or do casual exercise. The ministry plans to earmark funds in its budget request for fiscal 2019 starting next April, the sources said Sunday. Prefectural governments will be in charge of the project. The ministry is considering allowing them to outsource it to municipalities.