This World Alzheimer’s Month, let’s understand and manage ALZHEIMER disease
- UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING ALZHEIMER’S
- Who was Dr Alois Alzheimer?
- Could improving the brain’s immunity help in the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders?
- Doctors across the world Share their experiences of dealing with Alzheimer
World Alzheimer’s Month: Perhaps one of the most painful brain diseases is Alzheimer’s disease. It is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that affects the patient and has many psychological repercussions for the family and caretakers. Seeing your loved one slowly dissolve in front of your eyes, both physically and mentally, isn’t easy.
UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING ALZHEIMER
Shikha Verma talks about her experiences dealing with her partner’s Alzheimer’s condition and says, “There were days when we would just laugh at his absent-mindedness when he would leave the door unlocked or forget to turn off the tap in the bathroom. But then there were days when I would run to the neighbours’ homes looking for him as I feared he might be unable to make it home.” Her husband has now been institutionalized, as taking care of him at home was becoming more complex.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-70% of all dementia cases. The earliest indicative symptom of Alzheimer’s is short-term memory loss. As it slowly progresses, it manifests into more severe symptoms like trouble with language, deteriorating cognitive abilities, getting lost easily, and unpredictable mood swings. Perhaps the gravest consequences of this illness are a complete loss of bodily functions, an inability to take care of oneself and a withdrawal from society and family. The suffering patient feels lost and scared as the symptoms progressively become more serious, eventually leading to death.
Who was Dr Alois Alzheimer?
The disease is named after Dr Alois Alzheimer, who, in the year 1906, studied the brain of one of his patients who died of an unknown illness. He found various abnormal clumps and tangles of fibres in the brain. Since then, scientists have been trying to figure out the causes and treatment of Alzheimer’s but have made little progress.
Research by Stanford neuroscientists discovered that the way to preserve normal brain functioning and prevent the onset of neurodegenerative disorders may not lie with the brain’s nerve cells. Instead, if we focus on maintaining the functioning of the immune-like cells in the brain, we would get better results.
Could improving the brain’s immunity help in the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders?
In research on the genetic contribution to Alzheimer’s, eleven new genes have been found that put a person at risk. There has also been evidence that chronic sleep disturbances contribute to the illness’s early onset.
Another significant research on stem cells has proved that modified stem cells may offer a way to treat Alzheimer’s. There have been many ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, including lifestyle changes. For instance, quitting smoking has been a prominent lifestyle change doctors suggested. Other than that, maintaining a healthy balanced diet and an overall fitness level is always preached by doctors for almost all illnesses.
Since this illness shares a host of genetic and environmental causes, only one treatment intervention isn’t recommended. The recent approaches used by doctors today are holistic in nature. We spoke to a few psychiatrists and neurosurgeons regarding the mode of treatment they follow.
Doctors across the world Share their experiences of dealing with Alzheimer
Dr Natasha Kumar, a psychiatrist, discussed the importance of managing mental and behavioural functions. She said, “To begin treatment, we must first diagnose at what level the illness has progressed. If it is between moderate to severe, we use medications immediately. These drugs regulate neurotransmitters which further help maintain cognitive, linguistic and certain behavioural functions. However, medicines have a short-term impact, and a larger management level needs to be done.”
Dr Shivam Garg, a neuro specialist, also talked about his experiences working with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and said, “Educating families about the condition and giving them the support they need to cope with this illness is essential. Many behavioural manifestations of this disease result in aggression, agitation, depression and anxiety, the basis of which we are still figuring out. Still, I think a major part derives from the utter confusion the patient feels about his debilitating condition. So along with medication, a lot of counselling and therapy must be done for the patients and the caretakers.”
There are a lot of clinical trials that keep happening where patients with Alzheimer’s volunteer, hoping to be cured. It is a difficult task to cope with the repercussions of this condition. However, the first step is to educate ourselves about the nuances of this condition and then seek appropriate medical help with the first warning signs and symptoms.
Edited by Ayushi Mittal