New Delhi: Alzheimer has put Karan Dubey in a queer role. His 93 year old mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer, has become a la a 4 year old child. Sometimes, she turns a brat with tantrums very hard to handle. And thanks to great patience he is endowed with, he has been a perfect ‘mother’ to her, though she thinks he is her brother. He has made the grade of an ideal caregiver for the Alzheimer patient.
Initially, it was very traumatic for Mr Dubey to find that his mother Tara could not recognize him as son anymore and began to think he was her brother. But in the last four years, he has come off as an excellent caregiver to his mother. Like Mr. Dubey, there are hundreds and thousands of caregivers who take immense care of their loved ones in a hope that someday they might recognize them.
On the eve of World Alzheimer Day, Indraprastha Apollo underlined the crucial importance of caregivers for Alzheimer patients and showcased Mr Dubey as an exemplary caregiver. Addressing a press conference, Dr Vinit Suri, Senior Consultant, Neurology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said caregivers play a very crucial role in managing Alzheimer patients. Dr Suri also underlined at length the disease, its symptoms and preventive measures one can adopt to reduce the risk of developing the same.
Alzheimer is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Talking about the disease Dr Vinit Suri said, ‘People generally think that the terms ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’ mean the same. So, sometimes they use it interchangeably. However, these two conditions are not similar and Alzheimer is a type of dementia. Dementia includes conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Fronto- temporal dementia, vascular dementia and others. Patients with dementia initially develop symptoms of memory loss and executive function loss. Memory loss includes symptoms such as the patients start forgetting the events, dates, their ways around familiar paths etc. and executive function loss includes wrong decisions or planning at work place and at home. Memory loss initially is characterized for newer or recent memories. Patients with more advanced disease often do not recognize their family members and relatives. They undergo numerous behavioural changes such as they get very aggressive or irritated most of the times, they have mood swings, distrust in others, depression, social withdrawal, wandering habits etc. Thus, it gets all the more critical for the family members to handle such patients with extreme care, love and passion.’
‘Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease may have high physical, emotional, and financial costs attached to it. The round the clock demand for care, changes in family roles etc. are extremely painful and difficult situations for the caregivers to deal with. Most patients have relatively preserved old memories and live in their past. Hence, they recognize their relatives as someone related to them but usually identify their son as brother or husband as father and will often not even remember their names. Despite all this, the love and care by the caregiver continues unconditionally,’ adds Dr Suri.
Mr Dubey said, ‘She often forgets me who I am and calls me her brother. Sometimes she forgets the names of close relatives too. She gets very aggressive on some days and doesn’t eat food and starts throwing utensils. Even while I am in office, I am always concerned for her wellbeing. She has become very weak as she doesn’t eat anything and then I only have to calm her down. I still get tears in my eyes thinking about the days when she used to climb up the stairs to my room to talk at night.’
‘It needs a lot of patience, understanding about the disease and its various stages, good coping skills and a strong support system to help caregivers like me handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Then I met Dr Suri and consulted him for my mother. Dr Suri’s expert guidance and support really helped me in dealing with tough situations with her. I just wish that I enjoy this precious time with her,’ further said Mr. Dubey.
India accounts for than 4 million people suffering from some form of dementia and Alzheimer’s being the most common condition out of all of them affect around 1.6 million people. There is no drug that can halt the progression but there are drugs that can improve functionality and behavior abnormalities. Small measures like using the same routine, labeling objects and keeping the room well lit in the evenings can help.
Various measures that can prevent dementia include physical exercise, healthy diet, control of hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia and most of all ‘using the brain’ for intellectual activities like earning a new language, music and mental games.