“Alzheimer’s is the cleverest thief, because she not only steals from you, but she steals the very thing you need to remember what’s been stolen" - Jarod Kintz
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that causes brain to atrophy or shrink. This leads to an impairment and decline in memory, cognition, comprehension, behavior, and social function. This leaves the affected person unable to live independently or even carry out regular day-to-day tasks. It is important to remember that there is no known cure for the disease and current Alzheimer’s treatments are focused on slowing the progression of the disease and granting temporary relief from the loss of functions.
A 2019 report reveals that at least 50 million people across the globe are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of progressive dementias. In India alone, it is estimated that more than 5.3 million people are living with dementia of which Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause. According to the Dementia in India Report 2020, this number is set to reach 7.6 million by 2030.
The vast majority of Alzheimer’s patients in our country, however, go undiagnosed. This is both due to lack of awareness and access to appropriate medical facilities. This brings into sharp focus the need for awareness about the disease, an understanding of the help available, and long-term care of the patient.
Since 1994, World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated on September 21 and since 2012 the month of September is dedicated to Alzheimer’s Awareness. The theme for the 2021 awareness campaign is “Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer's”. This theme stresses on the need for awareness and for the elimination of stigma. A great number of Alzheimer’s patients do not receive quality care due to misinformation about the disease. This September 21 let us create awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and bust some myths.
Let us take a look at some of the most common myths about Alzheimer’s Disease:
1. Dementia is a normal part of the aging process: Some memory loss is normal in the elderly. Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are much more than memory loss. They are caused by brain atrophy.
2. Alzheimer’s is a disease of the elderly: The risk of Alzheimer’s does increase with age but early-onset Alzheimer’s affects people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
3. Treatment can cure Alzheimer's disease: Medications and therapies for Alzheimer’s disease target at slowing the progression of the disease. Once atrophied the brain cells cannot be repaired and the disease cannot be cured.
4. The Alzheimer’s patient is crazy: An Alzheimer’s patient loses cognitive, linguistic, memory, and social functions. Labelling the patient crazy deprives him/her of all the therapies and support that they deserve.
5. Nothing can lower the Alzheimer’s risk : Alzheimer’s does have a genetic component but the risk of developing the disease can be lowered by increasing physical activity, managing obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and quitting smoking.