Remember Aamir Khan from Ghajini? Most of us have the problem of forgetting. Sometimes when tension and work pressure occupy our mind completely, we may forget simple things like where we kept our car keys or our best buddy's birthday or may be an important appointment. Normal activities such as dressing, hygiene or going to a marketplace become difficult. Progressively, the person having Alzheimer's becomes dependent on others to carry out simplest of tasks. September 21 is celebrated as World Alzheimer's day, awareness about the disease is absolutely necessary.
"AD is a neuro-degenative disease associated with an aging brain. It is the most common cause of dementia (losing brain functions like memory, language, calculation skills) worldwide," says Dr Manjari Tripathi, associate professor, department of neurology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. AD usually begins after the age of 60. Certain chemical reactions occurring in the brain cause the shrinking of the brain cells. This eventually leads to the cluttering of entangled cells. The brain goes on shrinking and so does the memory.
Causes are not defined. Age and family history have been identified as possible risk factors. "The exact cause is not known. But the brain has deposits of abnormal proteins and tangles. It has various risk factors the strongest ones being age. Some are modifiable like hypertension, diabetes, stress, head injuries that are repeated, unhealthy lifestyle etc," adds Tripathi.
The following symptoms are a checklist for you. If you have some of these do not ignore it as a sign of the ageing process but check with your doctor.
Memory Loss: This gets to be distinctly different from the absent-mindedness most people have. When you start forgetting familiar details like names of the members of your family or friends or your home phone number.
Problems with familiar tasks: You may find yourself unable to tie your shoelaces, something you have done almost every morning of your life. Learning and retaining new information: When you misplace objects and/or have trouble remembering appointments or recent conversations. When you are repetitive in conversation.
Handling complex tasks: Whenever you do familiar activities like balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal or other tasks that involve a complex train of thought. Doing any of these may become increasingly difficult.
Personality and Mood Changes: You can undergo a drastic personality change. A quiet and courteous person can turn an impatient and aggressive one. Rapid, unexplained mood changes are also part of the AD pattern.
Language problems: You might find it difficult to find the right word even in simple conversation. You may find difficulty in expressing your ideas.
Disorientation: Forgetting the day of the week or the date is not uncommon but getting lost in your own neighbourhood or mistaking morning for evening is.
Judgment Problems: You might find that you are making wrong decisions. For example, watering plants on a rainy day.
Cope without frustration: Short-term memory is one of the first casualties of the disease.
Steps are being taken
Vaccine trials are on. However a healthy lifestyle with use of brain power as one ages like mental exercises, puzzles, keeping the brain active, music, social interaction, positive aging, spiritual interaction, walking, salads, fruits, good non-fatty and non carbohydrate rich diet, consumption of haldi, spices like ginger, Indian seasoning all prevent the onset.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. However, there are medications that can help control its symptoms. In addition, treatments are also available to help manage agitation, depression or psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or delusions) that may occur as the disease progresses. Consult a physician before taking any medications.
Here are some tips
o Never leave home without your calling card or your name and address on slip of paper.
o Stick to the familiar colour and light patterns inside your house. If the bedroom walls and linen have been black in the past few years stick to the same theme. Do not change the colour of the bathroom door, tiles or even that of the bucket. Do not change access to the bathroom by rearranging furniture.
o Retain old favourites. If you have an armchair, cot or pillow that have been your favourite, retain it. They may not be in mint condition but familiarity helps independence and gives a sense of security.
o Establish a routine. Every morning try to wake up at a time convenient to you, with the help of an alarm, if required. Your morning ablutions, bath, breakfast etc must fall into a particular pattern. Later, if your caregivers adopt the same routine it will be easy for you to follow and also give you a sense of security.
o Wandering will be one of your problems. You are likely to become a listless individual. Join an exercise or yoga class that will help you relax and also pass time in a healthy way.
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