Mangalore: It has been estimated that over 29 million people are diagnosed with dementia all over the world and a few more millions go undetected and therefore untreated because they are discounted as cases of age-related senility. Dementia is characterized by loss of cognitive functions like memory, reasoning, thinking, judgment and so on. In some cases, the onset is gradual and in others, it is rapid. There are different types of dementias and not knowing the difference between them can pose a challenge.
One of the most incapacitating and irreversible dementias is called Alzheimer’s which affects millions of people every year. Dr. Alois Alzheimer was the first to recognize the symptoms and write about this disease which came to be named after him. It is not just forgetfulness. It involves personality changes, neurological changes and also behavioral changes. It is an incurable and degenerative brain disease which is characterized by multiple lesions in the brain which slowly envelop the entire brain and destroy the cells rapidly.
What are some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's Dementia (AD)?
• Loss of recent memory: Even though the person has just finished his or her breakfast, he/she might say something like “They don’t feed me at all; it has been ages since I ate.” Asking the same questions and repeating oneself are the initial symptoms to appear in those suffering from AD. Misplacing personal items like keys is very common.
• Loss of Executive functions of the brain: Problems with language, calculation, thinking, decision making are common. A person with AD might have difficulty finding words to express himself/herself; lose all inhibitions, may undress in public, not be able to differentiate between the bathroom and the living room. They eventually lose sense of time, dates, and surroundings and may even wander away from home and fail to trace their steps back.
• Depression, anxiety, and personality changes: Suspiciousness, aggression, abusive and assaultive behaviors, crying spells, extreme dread are some of the symptoms that appear as the disease progresses. Late in the disease process, they may start hearing voices, or may think that people are plotting against them, stealing their belongings etc.
AD can result from the accumulation of two kinds of abnormal structures in the brain- amyloidal plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which are directly related to the plaques and lesions found in the brains of people with AD. In simple language, the brain develops some dark spots and knots which lead to rapid decay of cells. What exactly causes the formation of these plaques and tangles in the brain is still being investigated.
Living with someone who has Alzheimer’s Dementia
The direct impact of AD is on the loved ones who care for the person. Memory loss experienced by the person becomes a frustrating and agonizing experience for family. It is important for the family and loved ones to be compassionate and to understand that the abusive, assaultive outbursts are part of the illness and have nothing to do with what the family does or says.
Those who have ‘sun-down syndrome’ usually sleep during the day and feel comfortable when there is broad day light but are afraid at night. Leaving the lights on in the bedroom will help them feel secure.
Gradually, as the disease progresses, the person loses memory completely and is unable to recognize family and friends. The capacity to learn new things, to follow simple instructions, to speak, to write, that we take for granted is lost. They don’t know how to bathe, how to eat, how to dress up and become totally dependent on others for all the activities of daily living. It is often painful for loved ones to watch a person deteriorate so rapidly.
Despite international research and advancement of scientific knowledge, we still know very little about this deadly disease and are far away from finding a cure for AD. What we have been able to do to date is to slow down the progression of the disease or manage a few of the psychotic and neurological symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. It is about time we woke up from our slumber and got ready to tackle this calamity.
Susheg Jivith Neuro Care is a humble attempt to address the lacunae that exists in services that are available for those with Dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Dementia in particular. It is a 25-bedded state-of-the art assisted living facility housed in a three storied building nestled in a serene environment approximately 16 kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
• Professional, compassionate round the clock nursing care
• Symptom relief and medical assistance
• Physiotherapy and Recreation
• Neuro-psychological stimulation
• Nutritious diet
Those who wish to avail services and wish to donate/sponsor can contact Susheg Jivith Neuro Care on Mobile No. 7349448781
Dr. Lavina Noronha