World Alzheimer's Day: What's normal and what's not–customary aging vs dementia!

Ritu Singh

Often when people start misplacing things, start mixing up names and forget important occasions, fear of memory issues crop up. So, how does one determine that is this just another event of memory lapse or something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease ?

In the case of old people or elderly, we often misinterpret the early signs of memory loss to an inevitable process of aging and don’t give a serious thought to it. But these seemingly psychological and physiological changes which are often taken for granted can escalate to menacing heights and become a nightmare. That's why it's significant to understand the nature of this condition.

Comparatively speaking, India has a 5 times lower rate of Alzheimer’s than America owing to the compound curcumin in our food which keeps the brain sharp and reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms by 30%. But due to the modern lifestyle, more and more Indians are now falling prey to this serious mental disease and the next person could be someone you know. In India presently, there are more than 50 lakh people suffering from dementia, of which nearly 80 percent have Alzheimer's. According to doctors, this number is expected to double by 2030.

Theme for World Alzheimer's Day 2015:

Every year, World Alzheimer's Day is observed on 21 September to raise awareness of the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that impairs mental functioning. Every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease.

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Month 2015 is “Remember Me” as people all around the world are being encouraged to learn to spot the signs of dementia, but also not to forget about loved-ones who are living with dementia, or those who may have passed away.

What's normal and what's not! Normal aging vs Dementia:

To determine whether the memory lapse events are just incidental or something more serious, it is important to distinguish between what's normal and what's not. Following are some important pointers and the common symptoms:

  • Forgetting a person's name is normal, but not remembering knowing the person is not normal
  • Ability to carry on and pursue daily activities despite occasional memory lapses is normal but difficulty performing simple tasks (paying bills, dressing, maintaining hygiene) and forgetting how to do them is not normal
  • Misplacing things from time to time like keys, remote is normal but placing them in unusual places and losing them repeatedly is not normal
  • Not remembering what day it is, is normal but losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time is not normal
  • Having trouble finding the right word in a conversation is normal but trouble following or joining a conversation while misusing, repeating words is not normal
  • Having a little trouble in remembering directions is normal but getting lost in familiar places is not normal
  • Becoming irritated when there is a change in daily scheme of things is normal but becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious often and without any apparent reason is not normal
  • Making a bad decision once in a while is normal but having trouble making choices and showing poor judgment and behaving in socially inappropriate ways is not normal
  • Feeling tired of work, society, family occasionally is normal but completely avoiding society and distancing oneself from hobbies, favourite interests is not normal

Living with Alzheimer’s :

  • The person suffering from Alzheimer’s should give oneself some time to adjust to such a mental state.
  • Such a person should reach out for love and support and should freely indulge in hobbies and activities and also take good care of his/her health.
  • People with such a condition have trouble keeping track of time, people and places, so they should keep a diary with them at all times that has important telephone numbers, addresses, people's names and their relations, appointments etc.
  • 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.
  • Social ties and interaction helps the brain function normally and challenges the mind to keep itself in active mode.
  • The person should remember that it’s normal to go through a range of emotions, so it is important to share these reactions with others instead of dealing with them alone
  • 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 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.

Coping with Alzheimer’s: Caring for a person with the disease

It can be truly harrowing suspecting a loved one with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. 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.

Constant supervision is necessary for people with Alzheimer’s as they become more forgetful and their judgment decreases.

Coping with such a disease as a caregiver and encountering it everyday can be emotionally challenging, but it's essential to adjust oneself to the changes. The patient 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.

More than anything, most importantly, the way to get through this experience is to be patient and practice support, love and learning.

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