I lost my grandfather nearly 3 years ago to a disease that I didn’t even know existed (yes! Yes! I didn’t know about Alzheimer’s until I researched about it). My grandfather was a doctor he always made a point to stay fit and live life to the fullest since he followed a rigid routine we never imagined that something like this would happen to him.
Nearly 5 years back his memory started fading and we all thought that this might be due to the brain clot movement and we didn’t pay much attention to it which was our fault totally. In the year 2014 things started to get out of hands he would aggressive and angry at all of us and starting talking about things that happened long back, he would have no control over his body at times he would be able to walk all by himself and at times he couldn’t get up from the bed.
By the time we realized what had happened to him it was very late for us, he was already at the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s.
During his time we realised that people are not ready to talk about or just shy away from talking about mental illness. People used to suggest us to send dada away to a mental asylum as in the situation he is he can a threat to our life and somebody actually had the audacity to say it to our faces that dada Pagal ho chuke hai unhe ab Ghar se bhar nikl do and kisi old age home mai bhej do.
We proudly talk about dada’s illness to people so that they can be aware and can not make the same mistakes that we made and take care of their family members if any of them are suffering from any kind of mental illness.
In India alone more than 4 million people suffering from some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s being the most common condition out of all of them affect around 1.6 million. Alarmingly, this number is set to triple by 2050!
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative brain ailment that affects memory, behaviour and thinking to the point where the person afflicted may not even be able to recall any events from the past; including something that happened a few moments ago. Alzheimer’s causes the brain functions to slowly decline, and as the disease progresses, thinking and reasoning may be affected, making even the simplest of daily chores difficult.
In fact, what makes Alzheimer’s so severe is that there is no definitive treatment or cure to slow its progress to date.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding Alzheimer’s making it very hard for the person and their family to cope up with the disease…
Myth #1. Dementia is the same as Alzheimer’s disease:- Dementia is an inclusive term for progressive brain syndromes that lead to a decline of brain functions such as memory, thinking, language, reasoning and recognition abilities over time. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. The most common sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss; especially forgetting recently learned information.
Myth #2. Only elder folk can develop Alzheimer’s:- Although it generally occurs in people over the age of 65, it does and has affected people even in their 40s and 50s. This situation is called early-onset Alzheimer’s. While some early signs of Alzheimer’s may appear similar to those that are age-related, there are ways to distinguish these symptoms from general signs of ageing.
Myth #3. Alzheimer’s can be prevented:- Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented. However, some studies show that vitamins E, B, and C if taken regularly along with folate, selenium, and herbal remedies may be helpful. Even regular exercise to the mind and body, coupled with eating nutritious food rich in omega-3 has also been shown to be beneficial.
Myth #4. Alzheimer’s is not fatal:- The disease causes degeneration of your brain cells affecting your memory, which puts them risky situations especially when they lose their way home. People suffering from it exhibit erratic behavioural patterns and slow, progressive loss of basic body functions such as swallowing, talking, eating, and breathing.
Myth #5. Loss of memory is indicative of Alzheimer’s disease:- Alzheimer’s is a progressive and debilitating disease that interferes with a patient’s ability to perform daily chores and how they communicate with people. The memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s may cause patients to forget their own name, that of their spouse, or even a long-time friend.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
-A cognitive and behavioural decline from previous levels of functioning and performing.
-Memory loss is most prominent, especially in the area of learning and recalling new information.
-Language problems, in which case one struggle’s to find the right words.
-There is an inability to recognize objects and faces and to comprehend separate parts of a scene at once.
-There is a difficulty with reading text (Alexia).
-There is a marked decline in the ability to reason, judge and solve problems.
There are some unavoidable factors which include
● Age:-More likely in older people, a greater proportion of over-85-year-olds suffer from Alzheimer’s.
● Family history:- If there is a family history of Alzheimer’s then the person is at higher risk of suffering from the disease.
● Genetic Predisposition:
● Having a certain gene (the apolipoprotein E or APOE gene) puts a person, depending on their specific genetics, at three to eight times more risk than a person without the gene.
● Gender: Being female puts one at a higher risk (more women than men are affected).
The avoidable risk factors include:
● Sleep Disorders:- Sleep disorders such as the breathing problems and sleep apnea, if left untreated can cause Alzheimer’s.
● Blood Vessels Risk:- Diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension can cause strokes and increase the risk of dementia.
● Head Injury:- While head injuries do not directly cause Alzheimer’s, the severity of trauma inflicted can have a role to play in the onset of the disease.
How to treat and manage Alzheimer’s
Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s doctors follow basically 2 strategies
● Non-drug strategy
● Prescription medication
A lot of doctors state that it is better to adopt the non-drug strategy first.
Regardless of whether you are more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or not follow these lifestyle techniques to give yourself the best chance to fight the disease:
● Eat mindfully:-Include vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes as protein sources; and healthy fats in your diet.
● Exercise regularly for about 30 minutes every day as this helps improve blood flow to the brain.
● Keep an eye on important health numbers such as cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
● Exercise the brain through related games such as puzzles, crosswords, memory, and mental activity games.
As with any other disease, early detection is the key to improving survival and life expectancy for patients with Alzheimer’s. Most sufferers die from Alzheimer’s because they have not been diagnosed. The lack of knowledge and failing to watch out for signs cause the disease to progress unchecked and undetected. SAGE or Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination is a test that can successfully detect early signs of Alzheimer’s.
It was developed by a team of doctors at The Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University and comprises a four-page test that can be taken in under 15 minutes.
If you have any person suffering from dementia or any form of mental illness please take care of them to your full capacity, good care can make their life expectancy a little longer. It will always be like taking care of a little baby but do it for sure don’t leave them all alone ever, spend time with them and please don’t shy away from talking about their illness it’ll help people around you in the long run.