When you meet a person after a long time and you see that they may not have recognised you, you may ask if they remembered you, sometimes you would have to give them a cue or two before they say yes. They remember you but this is not the case with people who have Alzheimer’s disease who would struggle to remember names even of those close and dear to them.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia which is a group of conditions that usually affect people over the age of 65 but it has been reported among younger people as well.
People who have Alzheimer’s experience difficulties in remembering things, using language to express their thoughts and feelings and making decisions about their daily life. One of the challenges in detecting Alzheimer’s is that the symptoms often start slowly and worsen gradually.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s the person would look quite healthy to those around him, he would be able to shower, get dressed and manage his daily routine to some degree. The symptoms usually start with memory loss so the person would misplace his items frequently and fail to trace where he kept them.
Some people forget words used in a normal conversation so they would pause and try to remember the word that describes the thing they wanted to talk about, others start getting lost in familiar places or struggle with using basic devices like a remote control or a new smartphone.
Sometimes the person experiencing these symptoms would prefer to deny them rather than seeking medical opinion, either due to fear that the doctor would confirm their worries or because of the shame and stigma associated with memory loss. Sometimes the family joins in this denial by trying to explain such symptoms by being old and not needing to remember.
But Alzheimer’s and other similar conditions cause more than memory loss. This devastating disease eventually transforms the person to someone new with unpleasant behavioural changes. Sometimes the person becomes irritable for no reason accusing those around him (including his own family) of stealing from him or wanting to harm him and refuse to eat food offered at home or involve the police about the event he imagined.
Sometimes hatred would be directed towards a particular family member which causes disharmony in the whole family. As the disease progresses, the person becomes more dependent on others in maintaining basic daily needs such as showering, eating and preparing food. Eventually the person loses the ability to move and ends up in bed all the time needing to be fed and cleaned which is often done by a family member.
Caring for a person who has Alzheimer’s can be both emotionally and physically draining which is why some caregivers develop anxiety, depression and early grief. This is why it is important that all family members contribute to the caring tasks. However, in the Arab culture caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is often viewed as the duty of his wife who sometimes suffers in silence even when she has sons and daughters who can help.
Sometimes the person with Alzheimer’s experiences sleeping problems so they would sleep during the day and stay up the whole night which forces the wife to stay up to look after him making sure he would not harm himself or attempt to leave the house.
At times the person would be physically or verbally abusive towards his wife and children which can be very traumatising especially as it takes all the good memory of a caring and loving husband and father he once was.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible condition that steals the person and all the happy memories he once had. Let's all work together to improve awareness about it and support the person and his caregivers.