TODAY -

Tryst with an Alzheimer's patient
- Part 2 -

Samarjit Kambam *



Human life is composed of a kaleidoscope of events, situations, memories, experiences and the likes which may come in good, pleasant and favourable ways or in appalling, bitter and dreadful ways. There's an ocean of difference between hearing and actually encountering such events or situations.

The writer had put forth a write-up on the same topic. When we hear or read about Alzheimer's Disease, most of us neither hardly pay any attention towards it nor do we care a damn, taking it just for granted until it occurs to our near or dear ones or someone close to us for it is human nature to feel and think about life and living, not about hardship, suffering, pain and death. We think as if we are to last for eternity.

Even though we know that the biological clock inside us is ticking relentlessly, bringing us closer to our natural graves every moment, we seem hardly aware about this harsh reality of life. As long as we don't experience the sufferings of life which come in many forms be it illnesses, accidents or the likes, we carry on with our lives as though we will be immune from such unwanted situations for the rest of our lives. This human nature is in fact a boon for us. Otherwise, we'll be living with fear for every tick of the clock for the rest of our lives.

When it comes to illnesses, we are not much concerned until the victims of the illness turn out to be ourselves or until we come across or encounter a victim or victims of illnesses especially terminal ones. Every now and then we hear about cancer, diabetes, AIDS etc which are progressive, terminal and incurable illnesses. Alzheimer's Disease aka Senile Dementia is also one of them, a kind of disease not caused by pathogens but a malady of the brain due to genetic disorder.

Researchers and medical experts have opined that Alzheimer's is a serious form of dementia, a progressive and irreversible disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. A neurodegenerative type of dementia, Alzheimer's starts mild and gets progressively worse. Alzheimer's account for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Memory loss and confusion are the main symptoms of Alzheimer's. Others include worsened ability to take in and remember new information, asking repetitive questions or making repetitive conversations, misplacing personal belongings, forgetting events or appointments, getting lost on a familiar route, impairments to reasoning and multi- tasking, lack of exercising judgment such as poor understanding of safety risks, poor decision-making ability, inability to plan complex or sequential activities, impaired visuospatial such as inability to recognise faces or common objects or to find objects in direct view, inability to operate simple equipment or orient clothing to the body, impaired speaking, difficulty in reading, writing and in thinking of common words while speaking, hesitations during speech, spelling and writing errors, changes in personality and behaviour such as out-of-character mood swings including agitation, less interest in vocational activities, low motivation or initiative, apathy, social withdrawal, loss of empathy, compulsive, obsessive or socially unacceptable behaviour.

Affected people increasingly rely on others for assistance, often placing a burden on the caretaker; the pressures can include social, psychological, physical, and economic elements. What is of great concern is that Alzheimer's disease can start even from the age of 19 years without the person knowing it and the symptoms and progression gets somewhat later, say, 30-35 years or above.

In my previous write-up, I mentioned about a senior co-worker of mine who is an Alzheimer's patient. Being a progressive disease, his loss of memory began playing havoc to him. Even though he consulted many doctors and was prescribed medications, his condition keeps on worsening. The progressive deterioration rendered him unable to perform simple tasks which he had been doing for so many years and he has to be assisted by his son almost all the time. Being a pensioner on premature retirement, he has to give his thumb impressions on every documents related to accounts matters as he has forgotten his own signature.

A few days back, I visited him by going to his house. The moment I saw him, I was taken aback and shuddered with a jolt of shock. He was seating silently on a chair at his lawn with his eyes staring at nothingness. He did not even notice me even when I stood in front of him. Only when I called his name did he look at me with blank eyes, smiled for a second or two and resumed with his blank stare. I could see from the look in his eyes that he did not recognise me at all and I realised that he looked at me briefly when I called his name not because that someone has called his name but because he heard a sound. I guess, his momentary smile could have been more of a reflex action.

When I asked his son, I was told that his dad has forgotten his name also not to mention the names of his family members. He narrated the ordeals he went through in assisting his father. His father does not know where the bathroom is, where the kitchen is, where the living room and bedroom are. In fact, he doesn't even know where he is living. The last time I saw him, sense of reasoning and logical thinking in him wore very thin. But this time, no sense of reasoning, logical and cognitive thinking prevail in him anymore.

He doesn't know how to eat, how to take a bath, how to brush his teeth and even how to go to toilet when nature calls. As a result he pissed and shit in his pants. So, he has to be wrapped with adult diaper. He doesn't know the directions, what the sun and moon are, what the trees and flowers are. Even though he can walk, his son has to hold his hands for the direction he has to venture. Parts of his fingers are shaking repetitively. Many a times he was found wandering at the vicinity of his house and frequently showing signs of agitation and aggression for no palpable reason.

I had come across many near and dear ones of mine including my dad passing away and leaving us for forever due to stroke with some of them narrowly escaping death but getting paralysed and living like a vegetable, many suffering from cancer, some at the advanced stage, some succumbing to the illness where witnessing such scenes was really a horrible experience which haunts me days and nights afterwards. What sets apart with encountering an Alzheimer's patient is that the experience gets far bitter, dreadful and heart piercing.

Now, the person I have been mentioning about is living the life of a walking dead. He is simply breathing, simply staying alive, not even knowing how to express when he wants to eat something when pangs of hunger strike him. He was such a good person with a heart of gold, a pure gentleman. If there is an entity called God I don't know why God has been so cruel to him. Such a good human being who was so kind and compassionate doesn't deserve the hellish life he is leading.

Sometimes I also began to develop a fear psychosis asking to myself, "What if I also have genetic disorder just like him?". Hearing about Alzheimer's is one thing but encountering a person suffering from the same is another which really gives me the creeps. As there was nothing I could do to do away with his disease, I told his son to take great care of his father which he wholeheartedly obliged. That advice was the only help I could render for his father.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at kambamsamarjit0(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 03, 2018.


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