Don’t forget the hands that raised you!!!!

September, 2020

Dear Friends

In the last issue of Samhita, I had highlighted that ‘age is in the mind’ and senior citizens are as productive, if not more, as younger population is. This time I turn my attention to another burning topic concerning the elderly. A rather grim and growing one that is still not accepted easily by society. Of course to create awareness there is a specific day and month earmarked for this…..which day is it ? I can’t remember for sure. Here lies the clue ?

My friend’s father who was aged about 70 years left home one fine morning, like any other day to buy milk. He didn’t return almost the whole day, until the worried family members informed the police and launched a search. Finally at about 7pm, somebody brought him home from another part of the city. The poor man had forgotten his way back home and was searching all around ! He was hungry, angry and at a loss for words, unable to explain what went over him. Terrifying and pathetic !!

An aunt of mine was a perfectionist – well dressed, obsessed with cleanliness and discipline. I dread the early days of my marriage when she would size me up and admonish for not wearing a silk saree on a festival or forgetting to match with some jewellery that she had gifted. She would remember what exactly I had worn in my last visit and comment that I am back in the same old green or black ! Amazing memory and hawk-like eyes I would think. Of course she welcomed me with delicious home made goodies and wished me well always. Years rolled by. It was sad to see this once ‘well-lived’ aunt deteriorate drastically – incoherent talking, sudden laughter or tears for no reason, ill-timed comments, violent mood swings and inappropriate burst into clapping and singing like a child. Hats off to her dear old hubby and an affectionate caregiver who helped her with her daily chores right from bathing, wearing clothes to plaiting her hair and feeding her. Her family gave her a life of dignity and care. Well, despite her unpredictable behaviour and heavy memory loss she would size me up as before and pick out if I had my matching accessories or not – the woman in her was always alive ?

Kripa’s mother (name changed) was always worried that her daughter wasn’t getting a suitable groom to be married. But on the day of the wedding, I was saddened to see that the lady sat expressionless, like a stone during the rituals. She had forgotten to cry or laugh and was bereft of emotions. Numbed not because her daughter was being married off but because she couldn’t just express herself. Later I learnt from Kripa that she had suddenly developed strange kinds of fear and refused to stay at home alone. A career banker, her condition became so deplorable like my aunt’s, that she had to be taken to a Dementia day-care centre for a few hours in a day and kept engaged with some activities. It took months for the family to realise that her condition needed medical help and not just counselling.

The poster said “Missing……Godhi Banna, Sadharana Maikattu” (Wheat complexion, Moderate build) showing the troubled face of an elderly gentleman sitting on the footpath with anxiety and confusion writ large on his face. Caught my attention….friends, by now those who have watched this acclaimed Kannada movie starring the well-known actor Anantnag, released in 2017 will know what burning topic I am referring to. Yes, it is the degenerative disease called “Alzheimer’s” (named after a German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who identified the first case in a German woman in 1901) where brain cells start dying slowly, affecting the memory, thought, judgement, language and communication – all of which seriously impairs normal activities and daily life. Yes, my friend’s father, my aunt, Kripa’s mother – all were victims of Alzheimer’s.

21st September is earmarked as “Alzheimer’s Day” with this year’s theme being “Let’s talk about Dementia” to create awareness about this stigmatised illness that is wrongly passed off as senility, due to natural ageing. Truth is, it is a progressive disease affecting the mental function with no cure but only specific treatment which slows down the symptoms. Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact memory, performance of daily activities, and communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Statistics are startling as per some studies….Alzheimer’s affects millions of aged people around the world with 1 in every 16 households having an Alzheimer’s patient. With life expectancy going up to 85 years, it is estimated that 9% aged population in 2015 will increase to 20% in 2050. The number of Alzheimer’s patients is only going to go up. If not detected in time and treated medically, this carries both a financial as well as emotional cost to the society affecting patients, caregivers, family resulting in conflict in family, guilt feeling, resentment, caretaker’s fatigue etc.

With such a large problem looming, there is a need not only for medical consultation and day-care centres but also large specialised dementia hospitals that offer care, treatment, world class facilities, trained personnel, memory clinics and secured environment which many a times one cannot provide at home. All this is available at NIKISA Dementia Village and Alzheimer’s Hospital, Yelahanka, Bangalore (www.dementiavillagebangalore.com), which is Asia’s first Dementia Village, run by one of my close family members. Come, “let us not forget the hands that raised us. Let us give the Alzheimer’s patients a life of dignity with care, affection & medication !!”



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