Alzheimer’s - What to believe and what not to!

Ritu Singh

September 21 marks World’s Alzheimer’s Day. The question is how many of us really know about this disease? People hardly know about this ailment, as it is underrated and not given enough attention.

Recent health researches in this area lead to a grave concern which can’t be ignored. More and more Indians are now falling prey to this serious mental disease and the next person could be someone you know. Suspecting a loved one with symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be truly harrowing and disturbing. No cure has yet been developed for this disease but understanding the symptoms of this disease and treating the patients with care can help them to cope with it in an easy manner.

People often misinterpret the early signs of memory loss to an inevitable process of aging and don’t give a serious thought to it. When people grow old, various psychological and physiological changes slow down the functioning of the brain which is often taken for granted. So, the misconceptions have to be cleared and the symptoms have to be recorded and observed. If proper care is not provided in time, the disease can escalate to menacing heights and become a nightmare.

There is a second misconception as well. As people grow old, they are not as quick and energetic as they used to be and often have difficulty remembering and recalling information. In many cases these memory glitches are taken for true memory loss which is not really the case for Alzheimer’s. The information will come to mind eventually if the brain is allowed some time to recall. Till the time we die, our brain is well equipped to produce brain cells, so significant and incessant memory loss is not the outcome of aging but the possible onset of Dementia. Thus the need of the hour is to distinguish between what is normal and what is not.

Following are the symptoms which one should be aware of-

- Loss of memory and communication skills

- Impaired judgement and faulty reasoning.

- Becoming lost or disoriented in familiar places.

- Inability to follow directions.

- Asking the same questions repeatedly

- Neglecting personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition

- Difficulty in recognizing familiar people, things and surroundings.

- Behaving in socially inappropriate ways.

- Words frequently forgotten, misused, or garbled.

- Repeating phrases and stories in same conversation.

- Inability to perform simple day to day tasks.

Coping with Alzheimer’s

Coping with such a disease and encountering it everyday can be emotionally challenging and huge adjustments have to be made. A person might get irritatingly furious, dazed and confused as to how to deal with such a disease which has no effective cure. The treatments available for the symptoms cannot cure the disease but can possibly help in delaying the onset of more such debilitating symptoms. And most importantly, the way to get through this experience is to be patient and practice support, love and learning.

Some medications are currently used to treat the cognitive manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease. Of these four are acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors and another one is an NMDA receptor antagonist. These drugs are modestly useful in reducing aggression and psychosis in Alzheimer`s disease with behavioural problems but can be harmful in the long run.

The person suffering from Alzheimer’s should give oneself some time to adjust to such a mental state. Any sort of transition in our life can be challenging and only time can lessen the intensity of the frustration and stress one feels.

Such a person should reach out for love and support and should freely indulge in various hobbies and activities. People who engage in intellectual activities such as reading, playing games, completing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments show a reduced risk for Alzheimer`s disease. It is only with the help and support of loved ones, can a person deal with this mess and find some meaning amidst the confusion. Social ties and interaction helps the brain function normally and challenges the mind to keep itself in active mode.

Stress and depression should be managed effectively because this will help the person to maintain a positive physical and spiritual outlook towards life.

One should collect all the possible facts and details regarding this disease and should talk about it with others and avail information from support groups and services available. One should never isolate oneself but seek the help of others.

Eating right coupled with proper exercise and healthy sleeping can also help to combat the illness and lessen its impacts.

Every year scientists and researches are trying to probe into this complex enigma and are searching for possible cures. Here’s hoping their honest endeavours come to fruition in the coming years and bring a smile to the ailing hearts.

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