Dubai, UAE, September 18, 2017: In the absence of a concrete test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, doctors advice family members to be alert and watch out for symptoms so that patients can seek treatment and prevent late diagnosis. Keeping in mind that early management can help the patient and his caregiver make better management and plans of care
Presently there is no one test to determine if a patient has Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Currently, patients need to undergo a series of tests to ascertain whether they have the disease. Subsequently, misdiagnosis or late diagnosis are the common issues.
Dr Salwa Al Suwaidi, geriatrician and director of the Family Gathering Centre at DHA for elderly patients, says, “Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed through a complete medical assessment as there is no single test available at the moment and even when the condition is detected, the cause is often unknown. One of the symptoms is memory loss and often the patient resists accepting the symptom so family members should be alert about such signs, especially in elderly people and if the person has a family history of the disease.”
Nearly 70 per cent of patients at the Family Gathering Centre for the elderly suffer from this disease. “After 65 years, every five years of ageing, the risk of developing the disease doubles and almost 50 per cent of people aged 85 develop this disease. However, so many family members do not recognise the first signs of this disease because the symptoms are similar to those associated with ageing,” says Al Suwaidi.
Symptoms of the disease include forgetfulness, isolation, irritability, suspiciousness and loneliness.
Al Suwaidi said the way to detect the disease requires several tests, including a neurological examination to rule out other diseases, which have dementia-like symptoms caused by treatable conditions such as depression, thyroid problems, excess use of alcohol, hypothyroidism or certain vitamin deficiencies. Therefore, early intervention is vital in this disease, especially in the absence of one concrete test.
DHA has held several forums in the past such as “No one should face Alzheimer's alone,” to help families with relatives suffering from the disorder. More than 100 caregivers attended the forum and experts discussed various topics related to the care of patients with the disease.
Several topics including tips on how to deal with behavioural difficulties, ways to manage day-to-day activities and memory augmentation for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias were discussed.
The Family Gathering Centre also has a support group for caregivers. “Alzheimer's is a disease which takes its toll on patients and caregivers. One of the biggest struggles caregivers face is dealing with the difficult a patient's difficult behaviour. Therefore, in June 2013 we started this support group. It is particularly useful for caregivers, friends and family members of people with Alzheimer's as they can share their experiences and provide much-needed emotional and social support,” says Alsuwaidi
“We encourage family and friends of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias to join this group so that we can impart education as well as support them. The group holds a meeting on the first Thursday of every month and its aim is to provide emotional, educational, and social support for family and friends of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.”
Experts also discussed in detail the role of caregivers and the fact that they also need support to deal with the disease.
More than 50 UAE nationals and expatriate family are part of the group and they regularly exchange experiences regarding the problems they are facing and discuss coping strategies to ensure they provide best possible care to family members who are suffering from this disease. Patients with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias suffer from memory and cognitive deterioration, aggressiveness, abnormal behaviour, suspiciousness, insomnia and incontinence and caregivers discussed tips on how to deal with these issues.
Mohammed Gamil Elnoamani, consultant geriatrician says, “Support groups are particularly important for this disease because presently there is still no curative therapy available. Medications can only slow the pace of deterioration and therefore coping strategies and behavioural therapies are the cornerstone for dealing with this disease. The role of caregivers and healthcare professionals provide is pivotal for timely diagnosis and management of this condition. Our aim through the support group is to provide emotional, educational, and social support to family and friends of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias so that they can better serve Alzheimer's patients.”
Al Suwaidi says the centre launched a 24/7 Alzheimer's Helpline in June 2013 that provides reliable information and support to caregivers, healthcare professionals and the public and so far the hotline has received several calls on a daily basis, including many international calls.
The 24/7 Alzheimer's helpline (056 3710077) provides information about the disease, medications and treatment options as well as information about how to provide quality care.