Sunday, April 02, 2023 | Ramadan 10, 1444 H
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Know Dementia, know Alzheimer’s


As part of marking September month as World Alzheimer’s Month, Oman Alzheimer’s Association has been having a series of talks in Ibra, Salalah. On September 15, an event will be held at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. The good news is that according to psychiatrist Dr Hamed al Sinawi, families have begun to notice early signs of Alzheimer’s, which also means patients receive treatment in the initial stages of the disease.

This year’s theme, ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s,’ continues on from the 2021 campaign, which focused on diagnosis, the warning signs of dementia, the continued impact of Covid-19 on the global dementia community and more.

Families bring their relatives for diagnosis. Sometimes it is a change in the mood, or the symptoms are not severe enough for diagnosis.

“Whatever the case is, it is reassuring for the family to know what is going on with the concerned person once the diagnosis is done. Dementia is a group of conditions, and one of them is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is well known because it makes up 60 per cent to 70 per cent of cases of dementia. It makes it easier for families to accept,” pointed out Dr Hamed.

Genetics is just one component of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some people have dementia, so the symptoms would be similar to Alzheimer’s, but actually, they develop it after a stroke, due to head injury, consuming alcohol for a long time or having other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or having rigidity, being very slow or having tremors.

He explained, “Part of the clinical assessment is to make the diagnosis to find out the exact cost and how to deal with it as well as to know what kind of medication should be used and what medications to avoid because some of them could make the conditions worse.”

This year the theme is ‘Know Alzheimer’s, Know Dementia’, and there is also a tagline with it that says, ‘Together we can do so much more.’

“This line was added to emphasise global contribution so that we all can learn from each other because, interestingly, more people with Alzheimer’s are living in the developing world where resources are limited. Alzheimer’s is related to old-age so after the age of 65 the risk of having Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. Now we are seeing people living up to old age, so there are more chances for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

According to the senior psychiatrist, the idea is to increase awareness, exchange resources because there is a lot of ongoing research and find the best ways to conduct early diagnosis as well as discover ways on what can be done on medication, as well as in terms of support as the person becomes fully dependent on the caregiver who would have to learn on different symptoms.

“Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder. It is not due to black magic or related to being a non-religious person and is not related to bad luck; instead, it is a disease of the brain. In fact, the scientists have proven that there are changes in the chemistry of the brain,” noted the President of Oman Alzheimer’s Association.

The disease also has to do with protein accumulation.

Dr Hamed explained that normally people’s brains are capable of clearing the protein, but the people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s are unable to clear the protein, so it becomes like a lump of hair that blocks the sink.

“This begins to destroy neurons. The current understanding is that the process begins at the memory centre - hippocampus. This is the time when we find individuals forgetting and misplacing keys, and glasses, forgetting to lock the doors and so on. Slowly it moves to other areas of the brain. Later the individuals become easily irritable, crying for no reason, less tolerant of people around them and eventually withdraw and find it difficult even to understand space. So they find it difficult to judge while driving and understand when to overtake a car while on the road,” he said.

They might not recognise the signboards and the rules to be followed, such as when to enter the roundabout and know whose right of way it is. The ability to interpret things also gets affected. And soon, the person is not able to recognise their own image in the mirror.

They might not be able to differentiate between television images and reality.

The journey is difficult for the patient, family members and caregivers. So this year in the Sultanate of Oman, presentations have been held for doctors and the general public to recognise symptoms and learn tips to handle the situation.


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