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By Eileen Shamy

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Extra resources for A Guide to the Spiritual Dimension of Care for People With Alzheimer s Disease and Related Dementia: More Than Body, Brain, and Breath

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In 1950 this figure was only 200 million. By 2021 there will be more people over 60 years of age in New Zealand than children aged 0–15 years. Of all old people in New Zealand, over 90 per cent live in their own homes (Koopman-Boyden 1993). The figures for the UK are very similar. However, while these statistics are widely available, my own Methodist Church here in New Zealand, in the process of restructuring and planning the future, made little provision for this new context of ministry. Instead, in the minds of some, the criteria for a successful ministry and the successful parish remain as they were in the 1950s and 1960s: a bulging Sunday school and a large, lively youth group.

There will be many others unknown to me whose work I would wish to acknowledge. THROUGH A DOOR OF HOPE 31 Who calls the tune? There is a disturbing and widely held philosophy abroad today. On every side we are battered into measuring our own worth – and therefore the worth of others – by our ability to pay, by our ‘deservingness’ before the economy, or by our age. Those in the dependency years, the unborn, little children, the unemployed, the disabled and those over 65, are counted as those of least worth.

Families can be helped to see that they do not need to be put off by comments such as ‘Well, what do you expect? ’. Not all dementia illnesses are incurable. The conditions causing some can be effectively treated and the old person returned to his or her normal self. Examples of such reversible conditions are: • • • • • depression (of which older people are at greater risk) endocrine disturbances, for example hypothyroidism adverse reaction to a mixture of prescription drugs vitamin B12 deficiency chronic subdural haematoma – symptoms of a progressive dementia may not appear until many weeks, even months, after a head injury; however, unlike an incurable primary dementia illness, the patient usually experiences severe headaches and drowsiness, and surgical intervention is crucial – without it death is probable • slow-growing brain tumours, especially meningiomas involving the frontal lobes • urinary infections, which in old people may cause some of the symptoms of a primary dementia illness • chronic traumatic encephalopathy – sometimes known as dementia pugilistica because it is a condition caused by repeated head injuries such as a boxer might experience • syphilis – at the beginning of the twentieth century neurosyphilitic dementia was the cause of 5 per cent of psychiatric hospital admissions but because syphilis can now be successfully treated with penicillin, neurosyphilitic dementia is very rare • normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition which can occur at any age but is most commonly diagnosed in a person’s sixth or seventh decade.

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