Alzheimer’s was an alien terminology for me till a few years back. A Malayalam movie starring Mohanlal depicted the illness in the movie ‘Thanmaatra’. In this movie, Mohanlal is shown as a mathematical genius working in a Government office. Till one day, he starts behaving oddly. In the beginning, it is shown as he keeps forgetting small things like purchasing some groceries, forgetting his toothbrush, forgetting familiar faces, names, songs. Then slowly he begins to show more symptoms like forgetting his home route, forgetting the mathematical sums and he reaches such a stage that he is even unable to write his name on the Government paper in which he has asked for resignation on medical grounds. The movie also shows how his family is adjusting to these changes. As a husband, father, Mohanlal is the rock of the family on whom the entire family depends. And everyday, they keep watching him degenerate a bit more.
It’s a tragic story and very difficult to watch. But, the sad part is, it is the truth. The movie was very effective in creating awareness and removing the stigma attached to the disease of mental illness.
Unfortunately, in India, the awareness is very low. People do not know how to handle such people. They do not know how to live and adjust with them. As bad it is for the patient, It is equally, if not more, emotionally draining for the persons living with and looking after the patient.
We do have an Alzheimer’s patient at home. She is old and has become very difficult to handle. And she listens to only two people in the family. The rest of the people she doesn’t trust at all. She will not take her medicines on time. She will put it in her mouth and not swallow it. So, someone has to ensure that she swallows it. She forgets when she had her last meal. She also forgets her routes. But thankfully, we have enlisted everyone in our village to ensure someone informs us if she strays off. She keeps hearing voices, hallucinates. The hallucinations are very gruesome about deaths, killings and unspeakable horrors. But she believes, it is true. She cannot make out if it is day or night or a sense of time. Sometimes, there are moments of perfect clarity. Sadly, as much as we love her, she is no longer the happy, bubbly, strong-willed person we remember. That part of her no longer exists.
But in addition to the patient, we require strong counselling sessions for the care-givers too. They need to know what to expect from the patient. They are also depressed as they have unpredictable lives, sleep deprivations, anxiety, unable to lead normal active lives as the patient is heavily dependent. Hope, we find some ray of hope in the research for a cure for Alzheimer’s in this lifetime.
I have written this post for Write Tribe – World Alzheimer’s Day 2014.