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Depression in older people is likely to become a growing global health problem with aging populations. Significant cultural variation exists in beliefs about depression (terminology, symptomatology, and treatments) but data from sub-Saharan Africa are minimal. Low-resource interventions for depression have been effective in low-income settings but cannot be utilized without accurate diagnosis. This study aimed to achieve a shared understanding of depression in Tanzania in older people.
Using a qualitative design, focus groups were conducted with participants aged 60 and over. Participants from rural villages of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, were selected via randomized sampling using census data. Topic guides were developed including locally developed case vignettes. Transcripts were translated into English from Swahili and thematic analysis conducted.
Ten focus groups were held with 81 participants. Three main themes were developed: a) conceptualization of depression by older people and differentiation from other related conditions (“too many thoughts,” cognitive symptoms, affective and biological symptoms, wish to die, somatic symptoms, and its difference to other concepts); b) the causes of depression (inability to work, loss of physical strength and independence, lack of resources, family difficulties, chronic disease); c) management of depression (love and comfort, advice, spiritual support, providing help, medical help).
This research expands our understanding of how depression presents in older Tanzanians and provides information about lay beliefs regarding causes and management options. This may allow development of culturally specific screening tools for depression that, in turn, increase diagnosis rates, support accurate diagnosis, improve service use, and reduce stigma.
The number of people living with dementia in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is expected to increase rapidly in the coming decades. However, our understanding of how best to reduce dementia risk in the population is very limited. As a first step in developing intervention strategies to manage dementia risk in this setting, we investigated rates of cognitive decline in a rural population in Tanzania and attempted to identify associated factors.
The study was conducted in the rural Hai district of northern Tanzania. In 2014, community-dwelling people aged 65 years and over living in six villages were invited to take part in a cognitive screening program. All participants from four of the six villages were followed-up at two years and cognitive function re-tested. At baseline and follow-up, participants were assessed for functional disability, hypertension, and grip strength (as a measure of frailty). At follow-up, additional assessments of visual acuity, hearing impairment, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and clinical assessment for stroke were completed.
Baseline and follow-up data were available for 327 people. Fifty people had significant cognitive decline at two-year follow-up. Having no formal education, low grip strength at baseline, being female and having depression at follow-up were independently associated with cognitive decline.
This is one of the first studies of cognitive decline conducted in SSA. Rates of decline at two years were relatively high. Future work should focus on identification of specific modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline with a view to developing culturally appropriate interventions.
In the above article (Paddick, 2017) The corresponding author's details were previously listed incorrectly. The correct details are; contact number +44 191 293 2709 and email address William.firstname.lastname@example.org. The original article has been updated with the correct contact details. The publishers apologise for any inconvenience and confusion this error has caused.
This study aimed to assess the feasibility of a low-literacy adaptation of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) for use in rural sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for interventional studies in dementia. No such adaptations currently exist.
Tanzanian and Nigerian health professionals adapted the ADAS-Cog by consensus. Validation took place in a cross-sectional sample of 34 rural-dwelling older adults with mild/moderate dementia alongside 32 non-demented controls in Tanzania. Participants were oversampled for lower educational level. Inter-rater reliability was conducted by two trained raters in 22 older adults (13 with dementia) from the same population. Assessors were blind to diagnostic group.
Median ADAS-Cog scores were 28.75 (interquartile range (IQR), 22.96–35.54) in mild/moderate dementia and 12.75 (IQR 9.08–16.16) in controls. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was 0.973 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.936–1.00) for dementia. Internal consistency was high (Cronbach’s α 0.884) and inter-rater reliability was excellent (intra-class correlation coefficient 0.905, 95% CI 0.804–0.964).
The low-literacy adaptation of the ADAS-Cog had good psychometric properties in this setting. Further evaluation in similar settings is required.
The majority of older adults with dementia live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Illiteracy and low educational background are common in older LMIC populations, particularly in rural areas, and cognitive screening tools developed for this setting must reflect this. This study aimed to review published validation studies of cognitive screening tools for dementia in low-literacy settings in order to determine the most appropriate tools for use.
A systematic search of major databases was conducted according to PRISMA guidelines. Validation studies of brief cognitive screening tests including illiterate participants or those with elementary education were eligible. Studies were quality assessed using the QUADAS-2 tool. Good or fair quality studies were included in a bivariate random-effects meta-analysis and a hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristic (HSROC) curve constructed.
Forty-five eligible studies were quality assessed. A significant proportion utilized a case–control design, resulting in spectrum bias. The area under the ROC (AUROC) curve was 0.937 for community/low prevalence studies, 0.881 for clinic based/higher prevalence studies, and 0.869 for illiterate populations. For the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) (and adaptations), the AUROC curve was 0.853.
Numerous tools for assessment of cognitive impairment in low-literacy settings have been developed, and tools developed for use in high-income countries have also been validated in low-literacy settings. Most tools have been inadequately validated, with only MMSE, cognitive abilities screening instrument (CASI), Eurotest, and Fototest having more than one published good or fair quality study in an illiterate or low-literate setting. At present no screening test can be recommended.
Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) is a psychosocial group-based intervention for dementia shown to improve cognition and quality of life with a similar efficacy to cholinesterase inhibitors. Since CST can be delivered by non-specialist healthcare workers, it has potential for use in low-resource environments, such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We aimed to assess the feasibility and clinical effectiveness of CST in rural Tanzania using a stepped-wedge design.
Participants and their carers were recruited through a community dementia screening program. Inclusion criteria were DSM-IV diagnosis of dementia of mild/moderate severity following detailed assessment. No participant had a previous diagnosis of dementia and none were taking a cholinesterase inhibitor. Primary outcomes related to the feasibility of conducting CST in this setting. Key clinical outcomes were changes in quality of life and cognition. The assessing team was blind to treatment group membership.
Thirty four participants with mild/moderate dementia were allocated to four CST groups. Attendance rates were high (85%) and we were able to complete all 14 sessions for each group within the seven week timeframe. Substantial improvements in cognition, anxiety, and behavioral symptoms were noted following CST, with smaller improvements in quality of life measures. The number needed to treat was two for a four-point cognitive (adapted Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive) improvement.
This intervention has the potential to be low-cost, sustainable, and adaptable to other settings across SSA, particularly if it can be delivered by non-specialist health workers.
Disability is associated with increasing age and poverty, yet there are few reliable data regarding disability amongst the elderly in low-income countries. The aim of this study was to compare disability levels for three of the most common neurological, non-communicable diseases: dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
We performed a community-based study of people aged 70 years and over in 12 randomly selected villages in the rural Hai district of Tanzania. Participants underwent disability assessment using the Barthel Index, and clinical assessment for dementia, stroke and PD.
In a representative cohort of 2232 people aged 70 years and over, there were 54 cases of stroke, 12 cases of PD and estimated (by extrapolation from a sub-sample of 1198 people) to be 112 cases of dementia. People with stroke were the most disabled, with 62.9% having moderate or severe disability. Levels of moderate or severe disability were 41.2% in people with dementia and 50.0% in people with PD. However, the higher prevalence of dementia meant that, at a population level, it was associated with similar levels of disability as stroke, with 18.5% of 249 people identified as having moderate or severe disability having dementia, compared to 13.7% for stroke and 2.4% for PD.
Levels of disability from these conditions is high and is likely to increase with demographic ageing. Innovative, community-based strategies to reduce disability levels should be investigated.
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