Counselling primary caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease patients to be more understanding is key to improving the quality of life of those affected by this brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, say doctors in the city.
Speaking on the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day (September 22), E. Arun Raj, medical superintendent, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital told The Hindu, “We are getting many elderly patients above the age of 65 years, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The severity of the ailment increases with age. Caretakers have to be more sympathetic with Alzheimer’s patients, because their memory is affected.”
The day’s theme this year is ‘Know dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’.
Dr. Arun Raj said that it was common for patients to forget recent events, but recall remote memories with clarity. “They have to be motivated to do the simplest of daily activities, such as getting up from bed, eating food or taking care of their personal hygiene. Patients could also lose control of their emotions, causing upset within the family,” he said.
As this disease is progressively degenerative, and cannot be managed with medication in the long term, adopting healthy lifestyle habits at a young age could stem the onset of Alzheimer’s, said Jos Jasper, senior neurosurgeon and department head, Kauvery Brain and Spine Centre.
“Prevention is more important, because we can at least slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. The most important pre-disposing factor in Alzheimer’s is old age. But after that, all the other aspects such as sedentary lifestyle, uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, lack of sleep and distracted activity, can come into play,” said Dr. Jasper.
Urging more people to develop habits that keep the brain active such as reading, writing and listening to music, Dr. Jasper also said that social interaction was an important part of staying healthy. “We have seen an increase in the number of Alzheimer’s cases being reported during the COVID-19 lockdown, because adult children who have been staying with their parents started noticing their memory problems that would normally have not been spotted in isolation.”
Besides a healthy and balanced diet, following a regular exercise routine and avoiding brain injury are essential to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. “One must avoid alcohol and tobacco in any form. Addictive drugs can affect brain function significantly,” said neurologist M.A. Aleem.