With the increasing life span as a result of our medical research and advancements, as a mental health professional, I strongly believe there is a dire need to bring a shift in focus towards the concerns and well-being of the geriatric population, which often remains neglected.
Understanding Alzheimer’s disease
Especially in today’s fast-pace world, running behind deadlines, multitasking and getting stressed, it is fairly common for many of us to experience lapses of memory. We might not remember the deadline for a submission until the last minute, we may miss our appointment for our doctor’s visit, may forget to shop for groceries on the way back home, or might stand in front of an open cupboard and wonder what we were looking for!
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a neurocognitive disorder characterised by cognitive decline which lead to a significant interference in the individual’s independent functioning. Whenever a person is suffering from memory loss that disrupts the person’s functioning in his or her daily life, there is an indication of suspecting the diagnosis for an Alzheimer’s disease. Even though its lifetime prevalence rates are significantly higher in the older populations, nevertheless an earlier onset is not uncommon, and hence we should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease
While forgetfulness and memory decline is accepted as an inherent part and parcel of the degenerative ageing process, it is necessary to spread an awareness of the warning signs, which could enable the earlier identification of an Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier identifications would pave the way for beginning the treatment process:
1. Sudden increase in forgetfulness. Misplacing things frequently, forgetting names, appointments, important dates or events; asking the same questions repeatedly.
2. Difficulty in recalling common words. Struggling to find the right word, getting confused in spellings, unable to follow or sustain conversations, forgetting where they left off, and ending up repeating themselves.
3. Social withdrawal. Avoiding social situations to avoid embarrassment, preferring to stay alone.
4. Difficulty in recognizing familiar people. Misrecognizing people, mixing up their names, and at later stages even being unable to recognize their near and dear ones.
5. Disturbances in executive functioning. Being unable to plan and organize activities, keeping track of accounts, forgetting the sequence of a familiar recipe, difficulty in concentrating on tasks, with delayed reaction times, and slower responses.
6. Disorientation. Getting confused with time or place, losing track of days, seasons, years and even the passage of time very easily.
7. Daily tasks become a chore. May not recollect how to go about mundane chores, and seem unmotivated to complete their routine tasks at home, work or elsewhere.
8. Changes in mood and personality. Tendency to become irritable and easily upset, feeling of helplessness, suspiciousness and mistrust of others.
Treatment and Seeking Help
Even though the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s disease cannot be reversed or stalled, its progress can be slowed, with the provision of appropriate support networks for the person as well as the family in order to help preserve the functioning for a longer period of time. It is important to realize that Alzheimer’s disease does not just impact the individual’s life, but furthermore also has an adverse influence on the caregivers. Such individuals begin to depend on others’ guidance and assistance for things they might have previously been confident of completing independently. In fact getting support from the family and friends is a vital step towards the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Since it is a progressive degeneration, enabling an earliest identification and seeking professional help is imperative to be able to reduce the pace of deterioration. With the help of medications as well as neuropsychological support, it is possible to help the individual preserve his level of functioning for a longer period of time.