KOCHI: Dealing with dementia is not an easy walk for either patients or caregivers. Ciby Varghese, a resident of Pathanamthitta, has been taking care of her father Paulose K P (72), who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly three years. Every day presents a fresh challenge, but since she was able to detect memory disorders in her father at an early stage itself, the ride has not been too rough for her.
As the world observes Alzheimer’s Day on Tuesday, experts stress on the importance of creating awareness and identifying the symptoms early. The campaign theme for Alzheimer’s Day this year is ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’.
Though a complete reversal from the Alzheimer’s state is not possible yet, seeking medical help at the onset of symptoms can help control a sudden degradation of the condition.“Among many symptoms, asking questions repeatedly and losing familiarity with daily tasks are cause for concern,” said Dr Bindu B, senior consultant neurologist at Lisie Hospital in Kochi.
“Rather than jump to conclusion that all such symptoms are age-related, it is important to know when to seek medical help and to assess the real issues behind behavioural changes in an individual. As such, only close relatives, family members, friends and co-workers will be able to notice such issues.
With timely medical intervention, the progression of the disease can be controlled.” Amid the Covid pandemic, these are challenging times for dementia patients. While there has been a decline in the number of patients with symptoms related to dementia reaching hospitals since the Covid outbreak, doctors remain unsure if the development is a boon or a curse. According to them, it will take another year to find out.
Studies by WHO have revealed that dementia, a range of progressive neurological illnesses characterised by deterioration in cognitive functions beyond the bounds of normal aging, currently affects more than five crore people in the world, with nearly one crore new cases every year. Among those above 60, five to eight percent have dementia. Out of its various forms, Alzheimer’s constitutes 60-70% of the cases.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s include gradual decline of memory, disorientation and inability to perform daily activities. With no cure for the disease, patients spend helpless years till their death, in such a deeply distressing condition.
“The high-risk factor is age itself, and Kerala is a state with a high elderly population. The caregivers should be trained properly. Also, a social care team constituting psychologists and neurologists should be formed district-wise to cater to those dealing with Alzheimer’s. Social groups can be set up to address their issues as well. It is important to address possible age-related issues like Alzheimer’s’,” said Dr Sunesh E R, neurologist at Rajagiri Hospital.