PSYCHIATRIC COMPLAINTS- Alzheimer’s disease – Failing memory in old age
Good quality of life is very much essential in old age or otherwise more than suffering, the persons will become a burden to their family. Elderly people usually develop many complaints and often need to live with it with the help of medicines. In old age, one needs love and care. Unless otherwise properly cared for, they will become irritated, angry and annoyed. For them, family care is worth more than medical treatment or medicines.
One such problem in old age is decline in memory or Alzheimer’s disease. But in this disorder, the sufferer cannot even realise the worth of the care or treatment or medicines since they go blank. This condition, unless properly understood, will raise many conflicts with the family. Unlike other disorders, the sufferer will not suffer or feel for the sufferings but those who live with them suffer the most.
Forgetfulness is common for everyone. Normally, recognition or recollection can be noted with simple clues or a spark whereas in Alzheimer’s, even after providing plenty of clues or revealing everything completely, the person cannot understand or judge the thing or person.
Normally, absent-minded people forget, misplace their belongings and then feel for it. But in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, the person does not realise the fact that he has misplaced or lost his belongings. In advanced cases, they cannot even recognise their family members or themselves. If they are not fed properly, they will even starve to death without knowing how to eat. This is the most pathetic condition of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a mind destructive disorder. It is named after the person who framed the symptoms of this syndrome. Alzheimer’s disease is a complex mind or memory disorder (slowly progressing dementia) where one loses intelligence, skill, memory, thinking, personality, cleanliness, etc.
Incidences – It is common in elderly people where the brain shrinks or gets atrophied. Decline in memorising / recognising / recollecting ability occurs usually after the age of 80, sometimes it can occur even after 60. Advancing age commonly allows more advancement for these complaints.
Pathology – Limbic system is responsible for memory, thoughts, inspirations and emotions. It comprises cortical and sub-cortical brain structures, i.e., amygdale, mammillary bodies, hippocampus, etc. Memory is also influenced further by endocrine hormones and autonomic nervous system. In case of Alzheimer’s disease, due to aggregation or sclerosis (atrophy) of amyloid fibres, this limbic system gets disconnected from frontal and temporal lobe of brain, thus could not correlate present, past and future in mind.
Causes – Senility (with atrophy / shrinkage of brain tissues) is the main
suspected cause for erasing incidents or memories from our mind in case of Alzheimer’s. Adverse effects of prolonged medications in old age take the second place. Also, researchers correlate many factors for kicking on of memory dysfunctions, for example – head injury, mental shock, high fever, epilepsy, reduced blood supply, block in blood vessels, stroke, hormonal imbalance, alcoholism, metal poisoning, malnutrition, uncontrolled hypertension/ diabetes, sleeplessness, etc.
Symptoms – Sufferers are usually brought to the doctor or treatment by the family. By that time, the sufferers will stare blankly without any reaction or emotion. Impact of Alzheimer’s is multi-dimensional. Each facet can bring different set of complaints. Initially, patients themselves can manage, later they need support or guidance and finally they will lose everything.
- Initially, often miss pens, umbrellas, keys, street names, pathways, etc.
- Initially, will not accept their faults and burst out with violent activities with irritability. This attitude can cause many conflicts in their life and make them lose interest in it.
- Cannot recollect or remember the things he sees
or what he heard a moment before
- Stares blankly
- Difficulty in learning, understanding and reasoning (thinking and memory)
- Difficulty in making decision – confusion and disorientation
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Language and speech can be lost
- Out of normal behaviour and routine schedules – dressing sense and cleanliness can show the start-up of complaints
- Losing skills and needs constant and repeated reminders
- Repeating same words again and again or repeatedly asking same questions without proper understanding
- Difficulty in informing/controlling urine and stool
Diagnosis and investigation – There exists no lab test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease or memory dysfunction. Even though MRI scans show atrophy or shrinkage of brain in Alzheimer’s cases, it happens so in all elderly people. So, diagnosis can be made only by analysing activities, emotions, reactions and circumstances of the sufferer.
Complications – Even though it needs no emergency care, need of care always and in every aspect is the main complication. Unless otherwise properly cared for, Alzheimer’s patients starve to death, without knowing how to eat or gets added infections from lack of cleanliness or contact with pollutants.
Prevention and management
Surveillance of survival of elderly people seems to be very pathetic unless otherwise their children take care of them properly. Forcing them to do anything will not be a solution to the problem. Family members altogether need a lot of patience to understand and manage them. Immense love showered on them with sympathy can only extend their life.
In most cases, treatment can only stop the progress of the disease or memory dysfunction. So, if there arises any decline or loss in memory, it should be analysed with the doctor and get clarified about their condition in the early stages itself. In general, keeping brain constantly and continuously in use (regularly) will arrest the progress of the disease. Further, to support physical exercises, qualitative foods, supplements like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can be followed.
- Tension and worries
- Being idle
- Overloading brain with too much work or schedules
- Exposure to metals especially aluminum (in utensils) and mercury (in dental fillings)
- Create interest and be attentive to all activities
- Every activity in routine manner (orderly) to avoid absent-mindedness or losing concentration
- Take plenty of vegetables and fruits
- Better use planners, alarms, calendars, etc., to remind of activities
- Physical as well as mental exercises (play outdoor and indoor games) to enrich brain
General treatment – Currently, there is no specific treatment for memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease as there is no treatment for ageing. Also, since ultimate cause could not be found, one needs to take care in all aspects to arrest the progress of the disease. In general, treatment will be provided with vitamins, minerals and reassurance. If necessary, anti depressants with or without behaviour training or therapy will be given.
One should be aware that it will be always worth attending a dysfunction or loss of function in the beginning itself since with treatment, many drugs can help but nothing could cure it ultimately. So it is better to fix it at the earliest.
Homeopathic approach to memory loss
Generally, in spite of proper care in all aspects i.e.giving healthy diet, health drinks, supplements like antioxidants, the family will often note decline in memory. So, memory problems should not be managed just withsupplements, since the situation will often get worse with time.
Even though there is no promising cure, Homeopathy can manage this complaint well. Understanding the patient in-depth with detailed case taking, analysing them constitutionally and giving more importance to their feelings, Homeopathy can provide some hope to the sufferer and their family members. More constitutionally selected homeopathic medicine can provide stamina to brain to remain in endurance. Homoeopathy can ensure better relief from memory problems without any side-effects. Even though bringing back the erased memories will be tough, Homeopathy can provide some betterment by tackling and arresting the progress of memory loss. Conclusively, it can rejuvenate brain to remember things in a better way.
Homeopathic medicines commonly used in cases of memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease or impaired memory are Acid phos, Agaricus, Alumina, Ambra grisea, Anacardium, Arg nit, Ars alb, Baryta carb, Belladonna, Bryonia, Caladium, Calc carb, Cannabis indica, Causticum, Chamomilla, Chestnut bud, Clematis, Conium, Cuprum met, Gelsemium, Gingko biloba, Helleborus, Ignatia, Iodium, Kali brom, Lac can, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Merc sol, Natrum mur, Nux vom, Opium, Phosphorus, Phytolacco, Plumbum met, Pulsatilla, Scleranthus, Selenium, Stramonium, Staphysagria, Sulphur, Tarentula, Thuja, Viscum alb, White chestnut, Zinc met, etc. These Medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homeopath.
Dr. S. Chidambaranathan, BHMS, MD (Homeo)
24 E. New Mahalipatti Road
Tel: +91-452-233-8833 | +91-984-319-1011 (Mob)
(Disclaimer - The contents of this column are for informational purpose only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of healthcare professional for any health problem or medical condition.)