Why is forgetting so painful?
My teen struck brain at the time could only comprehend a single dimension of Alzheimer’s; It’s ONLY forgetting, isn’t it?
Of course, that is what reading too much fictional reading does to you.
Despite the sensitivity of how potentially dangerous and life-draining this disease is, I was brutally unaware of the pain and trauma Alzheimer brings.
Until….My limited worldview came to a halt when a loved one got diagnosed with it.
I am often asked ‘so how does Alzheimer look like’?
Except only if you look close, you can see how the lifeless eyes and a face that aged in tough grace is suffering in pain.
According to multiple research, Alzheimer’s uncovers itself after 20 years of first development. Meaning, you start losing your loved one bit by bit, piece by piece for 20 long years without you even knowing.
Since previous few weeks have been all about Alzheimer’s. I am going to take my cue onto what makes this disease an overwhelming feat and why we Pakistanis are so oblivious to it.
Alzheimer’s or Dementia (Bhoolnay ki Beemari) is a neurologic disorder that causes the brain cells to die with time, meaning; damaghi kuwaat bohot taizi se kam hotti jatti hai.
A patient with Alzheimer’s continuously suffers from a decline in cognitive thinking, behavior, and maintaining social skills.
A publication in 2017, claimed that every 3 seconds a person falls prey to the disease in Pakistan.
Most people associate Alzheimer’s as a part of aging. Although a fraction of this claim is true, the development of Alzheimer’s does start from an early age. The only difference is that it grips a person’s brain skills after a decade of preying.
Alzheimer’s Worsens Over Time
It is a progressive disease.
Usually, the first symptom starts with dementia. The initial stages of memory loss. As the disease progresses, the patient starts losing a sense of their environment. The ability to carry a normal conversation deteriorates and in extreme cases, the person loses the sense of his/her individuality.
The first visible symptoms start from confused thinking patterns. Loss of time. blurry conversations, mood changes, suspicious about their surroundings, and complete disorientation. As time progresses more serious memory loss, difficulty in swallowing, and walking starts developing.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are easier to identify with family and friends. This is when getting a diagnosis at the right moment becomes crucial. Not every sign of memory loss is a call for Alzheimer’s. But memory loss is often the first call for the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms for Alzheimer’s are like Seasons…
The symptoms come and go. Some days are hard and some days are super normal.
Symptoms of Alzheimer starts with
- Cognitive and Behavioral Deficits– meaning they have difficulty in processing new information and then taking remembering the actions. This can often look like repeating and questioning the same scenarios, replaying old past childhood or most remembered stories, losing touch of realities around them.
- Unaware of their surroundings – this often means with lack of spatial awareness. They lose their balance very easily. They get confused in different orientations such as clothing themselves, helping themselves with food, making a sentence out of simple words.
- Personality and Behavioral Changes – the suffering person may become easily upset, experience a sudden loss of motivation, experience a loss of empathy, or may show impulsive inappropriate behavior.
What makes Alzheimer’s worse is its no cure. Early detection can only help in managing the disease. What starts off with mild impairment can turn into a severe cognitive problem over time.
And this is where the diagnosis for Alzheimer’s becomes highly tricky.
You cannot catch the disease in its onset time. As mentioned earlier, it takes up to 20 years for Alzheimer’s to fully convert itself from dementia.
That takes me to another pain point.
How are Dementia and Alzheimer be Different?
In its simplest forms, dementia is a wide umbrella term used for such cognitive impairments. Alzheimer’s happens to be the most common type of dementia.
Dementia in the simplest forms of explanation is ‘loss of memory’. Some other common types and forms of Dementia happen to be Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Creutzfeldt – Jakob disease.
Once a person starts suffering from dementia, there is a high possibility they may develop other forms of dementia with time as well.
How do we diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s?
There is no definite diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. A behavioral change observed by friends or family is often the first form of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s patients.
Diagnosis for Alzheimer’s creeps in over years. Usually, people are unable to recognize if there are missing lapses in retaining memory.
The reason why diagnosis is important is its ability to prepare and plan for the future ahead. This is more important for the immediate family.
Dealing with Alzheimer and Dementia
I have seen my loved one write her memories, time after time. Running her thin fingers over words, again and again, to remember who she was the day before. It wasn’t the forgotten care that haunted me but seeing her lose herself. ‘Did I really say that?’, ‘How could I do that?’… As mundane as these questions sound, to me, it was a reflection of someone not knowing who they have been…
This is the point where palliative care comes in and this happens to be the first defense of treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Since there is no reverse of dead brain cells, the only way to manage this condition is through kindness, love, constant support, and yes lots of patience.
You may follow through with medications, brain tests, and other activities, but primary care is what Alzheimer’s patients need the most.
And while you are at the end of caregiving, managing your own stress is important too.
They Need your Support
Alzheimer’s is a day-to-day struggle to survive memory death. And if you happen to be the primary caretaker of Alzheimer’s victims, then it’s your day-to-day struggle to hold yourself together.
HowI see the silver lining of living with an Alzheimer’s patient. You get to see a softer emphatic side of you, who stands strong and gets more creative. By creative I mean being able to figure out new ways to withstand the complications of Alzheimer’s.
While there is no definite cure for Alzheimer’s there sure is a way to live well.
In case you suspect any signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, immediately consult with one of our top psychiatrists via Healthwire.pk.