Alzheimer's disease is an 'unforgettable' experience. For most of us, taking a trip down memory lane could be nostalgic, evoking myriad emotions, as we recall with ease the many experiences of life. Yet for some 24 million people in the world today, Alzheimer's disease has jeopardized this capacity to recall- memory, and to which they have progressively grown alien to.
September 21st, 2007 is celebrated worldwide as World Alzheimer's Day. The theme for this year is 'No Time to Lose'.
Alzheimer's, is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Along with lapses in memory, the patient's mental abilities also take a beating, albeit gradually. Patients also portray behavioral changes, and gradually thinking and intellectual tasks become extremely difficult. The loss is irreversible. Ultimately, the patients forget their identity, and simply exist.
The erstwhile president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, suffered Alzheimer's disease and finally passed away in 2004. Today, he is still remembered not so much as being the head of a powerful nation but for the legacy he left behind- Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute for Alzheimer's disease.
No Time to Lose - Early Detection is Crucial
The risks of Alzheimer's increases as people age, more so after the age of 65. A strong family history of dementia is a sure risk factor.
Patients with Alzheimer's face huge problems with memory, judgment, and structured thought process. Thus their normal life gets affected. The disease also causes alterations in mood and behavioral changes. Alzheimer's advances differently in each person; it is crucial to detect the disease early, so that treatment outcomes are positive.
Presently, there is no magic pill that can reverse the advancement of Alzheimer's disease. The best bet so far combines the expertise of psychotherapy, environmental changes and medication. The pitfalls of drug therapy for patients who are already suffering memory impairment can get worse because of the inability to remember to take a drug, and more so if the drug is to be taken many times in the course of a day.
Behavioral approaches are beneficial to calm down the intensity of certain difficult behaviors, often portrayed as aggressive and even unbecoming manifestations in conduct. It is here that the caregiver can play a proactive role in comprehending underlying triggers, and assist in keeping them at bay.
• Evolving methods to simplify complex tasks- such as dressing or feeding - into easy convenient activities.
• Reducing clutter and confusion goes a long way in reducing the challenge of caring for patients with Alzheimer's.
• Activities that induce pleasure such as games and music, is known to have a positive effect on the mood, allaying potential fears and depression.
The silver lining clearly rests in the quality of care meted out to such patients. This directly reflects on the well-being of the patient.
Training - Succor for Caregivers
The influence of the care-giver can be uplifting or otherwise depending upon the quality of care. For instance, a person-centered approach would nurture independence in the patient.
The finding from a recent research has established the merits of training and support for care givers, which has reflected in positive patient outcomes. Most care givers learn the role hands-on, being pushed into the situation without adequate preparedness. Not being trained for the role, they are at their wits end, unable to cope with the changing demands of the Alzheimer's patients.
It was found that even simple training for the care givers helped in easing the role of care-giving. Also, it was found that, patients were able to cope with home care viz a viz hospital care for an additional one and a half years.
Having established the merits of training, getting the care-givers to allot time from their routine tasks to seek assistance was found to be a Herculean task. If they managed to attend the training and support sessions, it was half the battle won!
Amidst these discussions, a dangerous sentiment looms large- with the growing numbers of Alzheimer's patients, would there be enough caregivers? NO TIME TO LOSE - ACT FAST, is the pervading message on World Alzheimer's Day.