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            The Aga Khan University Hospital Pakistan

Living with Alzheimer’s: Strategies and Support

<p>​Alzheimer&#39;s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that destroys brain cells, nerves, and other functions of the brain, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline. Alzheimer&#39;s disease is the most common form of dementia (a general term for the loss of thinking, remembering, or reasoning). Over 55 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with dementia, according to Alzheimer&#39;s Disease International.</p><p>“Alzheimer&#39;s deprives an individual of their memory, personality, insight, dignity, and sense of self. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to ensure the best care for Alzheimer&#39;s patients and their families,&quot; says Dr Saad Shafqat, Professor of Neurology, Department of Medicine at AKUH. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer&#39;s, there are various strategies and approaches that can help patients and their families manage the condition and maintain a good quality of life, as outlined below.  ​
</p><p><strong>1. Early Warning Signs and Diagnosis</strong></p><p>Early diagnosis is a crucial step in managing Alzheimer&#39;s as it can help individuals and their families plan for the future. It is essential to consult a doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing the following symptoms, indicative of the mild stage of Alzheimer&#39;s:</p><ul><li>Losing or misplacing things more than usual</li><li>Challenges in problem solving</li><li>Forgetfulness or mild confusion (e.g., forgetting newly learned information)</li><li>Problems in speaking or writing</li><li>Changes in mood, behaviour, or personality</li><li>Difficulty performing familiar tasks</li></ul><p><strong>2. Medication and Treatment</strong></p><p>While Alzheimer&#39;s disease has no cure, there are medications that can help slow down its progression and manage some of its symptoms. Medications may be prescribed by your healthcare provider to manage or improve memory and cognitive function. However, the effectiveness of these drugs varies from person to person. </p><p>Other drugs for treatment of behavioural and mood disorders (such as depression and insomnia) may also be prescribed. Some drugs, however, have side effects such as nausea, constipation, and disturbed sleep.  </p><p><strong>3. Caregiver Support </strong></p><p>Alzheimer&#39;s can be emotionally and physically challenging for individuals with the disease, which is why having a dedicated support system is so important. Caregivers play a crucial role in managing Alzheimer&#39;s by providing support, assisting with daily activities, and emotional comfort. It is also essential for patients and caregivers to seek professional support from hospital support services.</p><p><strong>4. Creating a Safe Environment </strong></p><p>Alzheimer&#39;s can lead to safety concerns, as individuals may become disoriented or forgetful. Creating a safe home environment is crucial to prevent accidents. This may involve removing tripping hazards, installing handrails, using door locks and alarms, and ensuring that medications are taken as prescribed.</p><p>Moreover, for caregivers looking after an Alzheimer&#39;s patient, it is important to maintain a comfortable environment for the patient to manage behaviour changes. Some steps you can take are:</p><ul><li>Try not to change the layout of the patient&#39;s living space, as changes and unfamiliar elements may disturb them.</li><li>Provide the patient with objects they are attached to, like a favorite blanket.</li><li>Try to avoid confrontation. </li><li>Find ways to distract them if they are under stress.</li></ul><p><strong>5. Healthy Lifestyle</strong></p><p>Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for managing Alzheimer&#39;s. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Physical activity can improve blood flow to the brain and promote overall well-being. A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids is also beneficial for brain health.  </p><p><strong>6. Mental Engagement </strong></p><p>Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help manage cognitive decline by keeping the brain active and promoting cognitive function for a longer time. Caregivers and family members can encourage Alzheimer&#39;s patients to engage in activities like puzzles, word games, reading, and art. </p><p>Managing Alzheimer&#39;s is a complex journey that requires a multi-faceted approach. While there is no cure for the disease, early diagnosis, medication, caregiver support, mental engagement, a healthy lifestyle, and a safe environment can all contribute to a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer&#39;s and their families.  ​
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