Different surveys in India reveal that about 20% of old persons are under the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is a silent demon that attacks the brain of a person so slowly that two years pass when the afflicted person him/herself realizes something is going wrong with her/his memory, decision making, understanding and expressing.
When second stage sets, the brain has shrunk, neuron cells are wilted and their capacity to receive, analyze, transfer and transmit information is not only weakened but also corrupted. Physical health deteriorates, psychological health enters a stage of inability to behave in the way the person used to. It seems as if there is a dense fog in the brain and the person is unable to sense anything around.
This inability devastates the very being of an individual, his dignity is destroyed. There are very few lucky individuals who are taken good care of. Their only hope rests on the spouse who is loving, caring and devoted (a rare phenomenon in contemporary world where sharing and caring is considered “the other person’s duty”. Though rare, there are such caring persons).
Good care giving is the only medicine that makes life dignified for the AD sufferers.
On the onset of the third stage, the victim is totally dependent on others for her/his every day needs, from rising up in the morning to going to bed and having a very disturbed pattern of sleep. The senses totally get diminished to almost zero. The body is living, taking and digesting food, the excreta are passed out but there is no control over this activity. The care-giver has to look after the hygiene of the person.
Experts say this disease has about 2-4 years of first stage, 3-6 years of second stage and 2-plus years of third stage, it is virtually impossible to have a single care-giver all through. Assistance of a properly trained nurse is the only way. Unfortunately, our country has not a single training centre for Alzheimer’s disease nursing and even not a single specialized A.D. care centre in any hospital. The government’s intensive efforts are concentrated around AIDS and Cancer only, as both are fatal and the former is contagious. Though self acquired, it is a social problem. Alzheimer’s is no less a social problem. It does not only destroy the health and dignity of the patient, but of the whole family whose daily life-style is permanently changed and negatively affected. There are millions of such families in the country.
The AD sufferer is a brain invalid, this invalidity is much more devastating than physical invalidity and yet the AD patient is not recognized as one, thus he/she is deprived of the privileges granted to various categories of other invalids.
It is therefore, imperative that the following steps be immediately taken for the sake of the grandparents of the nation who have definitely contributed to its advancement:
- On the lines of the AIDS Societies working in the departments of Health and Social Welfare of the State governments, there should also be Alzheimer’s disease Societies.
- There should be a fully equipped diagnostic AD care centre at every government hospital and medical college which has a department of Neurology. This AD Centre should also serve as a training centre for specialized train of AD nurses and of family care-givers.
- There should also be a non-government society of AD families for mutual support, for exchange of experiences, for spreading public awareness and for raising funds to help patients from fund-deprived families for their diagnosis, medication, and care.
- Finally, there should be an exhaustive enumerate survey of AD patients to make the state level registry of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s patients should be declared brain invalid and given same facilities and benefits as other groups of invalids.
It is the sacred duty of every socially oriented person to work for the benefit of AD sufferers to the extent possible and create a public awareness and feeling of belonging.