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World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated every 21st of September to raise awareness and educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type (~60-70%) of dementia. In many countries, the United States being the most passionate one, World Alzheimer’s Day is dedicated throughout the whole month of September. It is reported that the rate of Alzheimer’s is increasing year by year and being one of the leading causes of death worldwide, raising awareness and bringing this disease to the public’s attention is the way forward in fighting against this disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that results in loss of memory, difficulty in comprehending visuals and spatials interaction to the extent it impairs daily functioning (ie: inability to get dressed by themselves) due to the damaged brain cells. People with Alzheimer’s also often struggle with problem-solving and multitasking.
Although it is typically believed that it's an elderly disease that would affect most elderly people, it is not actually true. According to scientists, Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by a combination of factors such as genetics, behavioural as well as environmental factors and thus is not considered to be part of aging. There are individuals aged 65 and below who can be affected by Alzheimer’s, also known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
To date, there is no definite cure but experts think by normalising one’s blood pressure, frequent exercising and smoking cessation, the risk of getting Alzheimer’s may be reduced. There are, however, existing medications that can prevent the symptoms from worsening over time. Let’s take a closer look at this special day and learn more about the disease!
A German psychiatrist, Alois Alzheimer was actually the first to discover the disease while treating a 50 year old German lady, which also explains why the disease was named after him. Over the years, the Alzheimer’s Disease International was built in 1984 and on their 10th anniversary in 1994, the organization established the existence of World Alzheimer’s Day to be celebrated every 21st of September. World Alzheimer’s Day was however only recognised in 2012.
Education is power. World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated annually in the month of September to recognise and acknowledge the disease and to debunk any common misconceptions and negative stigmatisation surrounding it. It is also seen as an opportunity to provide some helpful tips for people to overcome these challenges and assist those with dementia.
The theme for this year’s World Alzheimer’s Day follows last year’s campaign’s theme; “Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s” which focuses on the “power of information”. However, this year the event emphasises more on post-diagnosis support for family members or caregivers to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Image credit: Ecogreen love
Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s can be mentally, physically and financially exhausting since most affected patients are activities of daily living (ADL) dependent. You may find yourself overwhelmed easily with providing and having to constantly attend to their every single needs and decisions while also coping with the fact that someone you love is gradually losing their independence. We feel for you and hence hope these tips come in handy if you are taking care or supporting someone with Alzheimer’s:
Have a support network such as your family members, friends or caregivers that can help you when in need. It is crucial to take care of yourself first in order to provide the best care your loved one needs.
Keep things as simple as possible and be patient with them. Ask or say one thing at a time and don’t rush them if their movements are slow.
Provide safe environments for them such as preventing falls (ie: install hand grabs at appropriate areas, keeping the floor clean at all times), use locks at any cabinets that store dangerous items such as knives and poisons etc.
Involve them in doing simple activities (ie: setting up the table, doing their bed etc) to keep their brain active
Try sticking to a daily routine to allow the affected person to gauge the habit or familarise themselves with you and the daily activities that will be carried out
Avoid showing your frustration or lash out at them. If you get upset, take a deep breath and count to 10. Leave the room for a while if you have to.
Ensure they’re taking their medications as prescribed and pay attention to any change of behavior and/or mood.
Try using music, singing or dancing to distract them if needed.
Having Alzheimer’s is unfortunate and will compromise one’s daily functioning. However it is not the end of the world. With proper treatment and care, someone with Alzheimer’s can still have an enhanced quality of life and enjoy the beautiful things life has to offer.
Written by Janelle Leong, Bpharm(Hons)
World Alzheimer's Day 2022: Date, significance and all that you need to know - Free Press Journal. Available at https://www.freepressjournal.in/world/world-alzheimers-day-2022-date-significance-and-all-that-you-need-to-know Accessed on 20th September 2022
World Alzheimer’s Day - National Today. Available at https://nationaltoday.com/world-alzheimers-day/ Accessed on 20th September 2022
What is Alzheimer’s Disease? - Alzheimer’s Association. Available at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers Accessed on 20th September 2022
Managing Personality and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer's - National Institute of Aging. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/managing-personality-and-behavior-changes-alzheimers Accessed on 20th September 2022
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