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‘Alzheimer’s patients require love, care, medicines’

New Delhi: ‘Pick laundry’, ‘Pay maid’ and notes relating to other daily chores greet you as you enter Padma Narsimhan’s room, where she sits in a corner listening to morning ragas in her own voice.

The notes are necessary as 75-year-old Narsimhan has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last four years. She struggles to remember even the most basic activities of her daily life. But her daughter ensures she is not subjected to the loneliness the disease brings with it.

“Life was going normal until a family feud began stressing my mother. She was active in working at home but one day she forgot to switch off the cooking gas for hours. We used to give her money and tell her to keep it safe but she would forget where she had kept it,” said Narsimhan’s daughter Rangashri Kishore as she recalled her mother’s journey.

“After some visits to the doctor, I and my husband realised it was Alzheimer’s. We prepared ourselves to be with her in the times when she really needed us,” an emotional Rangashri told IANS.

Though both her daughter and son-in-law work – necessitating the notes – but a maid ensures that Narsimhan is never left alone in the house as she does not even know what is to be done when someone knocks on the door.

But her son-in-law, M C Kishore, said that despite the memory disorder, the septuagenarian is clued in to current affairs and is the first one to read the newspapers and narrate the stories of the day to her grandchildren.

With nearly 3.7 million people suffering from dementia in 2010, Alzheimer’s affects nearly 60 per cent of them. The age-related disorder hampering memory and thinking caused by loss in brain function is expected to double by 2020, according to Dementia India Report 2010.

“In India’s context, we are in a very tricky situation for Alzheimer’s. We are yet to get a clear health policy for the elderly through the National Programme for Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE) by the health ministry,” said Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARSDI) chairman Dr K Jacob Roy.

The risk of Alzheimer’s increases after the age of 60 and results in a societal cost of about Rs 14,700 crore.

The flicker of hope, according to experts, is India’s push that has resulted in the inclusion of mental health in the list of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

“Like tuberculosis and cancer, Alzheimer’s also has an organic origin. It needs diagnosis through memory clinics, where a team of neurologists, psychiatrists and general doctors attend on the patient,” Dr K Jacob Roy explained.

Dr K Jacob Roy also lamented on the “scarcity of memory clinics and thinning chances of an early diagnosis”.

Even as research on the mode of treatment and awareness are in the offing, what is missing is love and care from families of the elderly patients. The nuclear family culture makes the ride tougher for the elderly, making them easy prey to loneliness and dependence.

“We need care in the form of day care centres and chronic care facilities with trained staff available in remote regions as well,” said Dr Manjari Tripathi, associate professor of neurology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

“Drugs for symptomatic relief are available after diagnosis. But immense awareness is needed with risk factors like age, blood pressure, diabetes, stress and head injuries,” Dr Manjari Tripathi added.

“Turmeric in food, salads and fruits can help the brain in learning new activities in old age,” Dr Manjari Tripathi advised.

Dr K Jacob Roy said, “The family has to be very caring and not make feel the elderly dependent, burden or miserable. We need counselling for the families on the care of elderly as they almost need child-like care. It needs patience.”

Back at the Kishore household in Jor Bagh, the family awaits as Narsimhan enters draped in a purple silk sari with a tray of coffee mugs in hand. “I haven’t forgotten my knack for making the best filter coffee,” she quips as her voice still plays in the backdrop.

The music is a reminder to Narsimhan that she was once a classical singer who taught music to children. “My students gifted it to me for posterity so that I never forget my own voice,” she added of the player. [Source: IANS]

by Madhulika Sonkar

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