WORLD ALZHEIMERS DAY is on September 21, the day chosen by the World Health Organization to focus on this debilitating disease. This dementing illness was named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer who in 1906 was the first doctor to describe the characteristic brain changes of Alzheimers Disease (AD) victims.
In the Philippines, spearheading the educational campaign about the disease is the Alzheimers Disease Association of the Philippines (ADAP) led by its president, Ma. Socorro Martinez, M.D.AD affects all groups in society, regardless of social class, gender, race or geographical location. While it is more common among elderly persons, younger people have been known to be affected. Perhaps the most famous AD victim was the former US President Ronald Reagan who battled the disease for more than a decade. Because of Reagan, the world is now more aware of its devastating effects on the brain.
AD attacks those parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. This is why the person appears confused or as we would say tulero.
Eventually, as dementia sets in, they may become irrational and violent due to behavioral and personality changes. Gradually, they experience difficulty in finding words to express what they want to say. They cant seem to follow simple directions or to do routine tasks like washing hands. Eventually, they forget names and fail to recognize people close to them, including spouse and family.
Early symptoms may be mistaken as ulyanin (senile), the typical signs of ageing. It begins with forgetfulness or absentmindedness. In the middle stage, they may recall with accuracy events that happened many years ago but wont remember what they did this morning.
One becomes disoriented in time and lost in familiar places. Initially, the person becomes listless, lacking motivation and may alternately be depressed and aggressive.
Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia.
An AD patient eventually becomes very dependent for even the simplest things like personal hygiene, ie, in the toilet, taking baths, dressing up, etc. They no longer can cook, clean or feed themselves. They become so forgetful they get lost even in the house. They become spooked with hallucinations, along with paranoia.
The final stage is one of total dependence and inactivity. They can no longer care for themselves, they suffer bladder and bowel incontinence, and may be confined to a wheelchair or bed because they cant walk.
For now, there is no cure of Alzheimers Disease. Still, an early diagnosis is crucial in order than the caregiver will be better equipped to deal with the disease and the patient himself will be aware of what to expect.
Also, several studies indicate that certain activities have been found to be helpful for keeping AD symptoms at bay such as keeping the brain active by making a habit of reading, doing crossword puzzles, etc… in short, continually stimulating the brain. A routine of exercise helps to keep the body healthy even though the mind is blown.
A booklet titled Help for Caregivers has been made available by the Alzheimers Disease International (ADI), a federation of national AD societies around the world, for families and support groups of AD sufferers.
The booklet provides information about AD and other forms of dementia as well as advise for the care of AD sufferers. It was the result of collaborations between doctors, families and WHO.