Alzheimer’s care amid pandemic: All you need to know

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The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed our lives, posing a set of severe diseases. Experts say serious Alzheimer’s patients are generally more at risk of paranoia, anger, confusion, depression etc. Hence, they require assistance and personal care at every stage. Their treatment has also been massively affected due to the unprecedented changes brought about by the pandemic. So this World Alzheimer’s Day 2021, here’s what you need to know about Covid and Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. In the early stage, symptoms may be minimal, but they can worsen. “The rate at which the disease progresses is different for everyone, but on average, people with Alzheimer’s live for eight years after symptoms begin,” says Dr Sahil Kohli, Consultant, Neurology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram.

According to him, in India, more than four million people have some form of dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia, making the disease a global health crisis that must be addressed. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70 per cent of cases. It is estimated that the cases will double in India by 2030 and treble by 2050.

Dr Amit Srivastav, Senior Consultant, Neurology, Dharamshila Narayana Superseciality Hospital says a recent study conducted by UK Biobank on 40, 000 participants has definite evidence of brain damage (loss of cells in the brain) post-Covid as documented by serial follow-up scans.

“These patients presented with new-onset dementia or a sudden deterioration of cognitive capabilities in patients with early dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Also, prolonged isolation due to Covid rules in general and during hospitalisation, in particular, has an adverse impact on all Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. Also, discontinuation or badly managed treatment regime also caused a lot of problems,” he says.
Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's cure, Alzheimer's treatment, dementia, how is Alzheimer's treated, China new cure for Alzheimer's, GV-971, Oligomannate, Indian express explained Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that destroys brain cells and nerves, and disrupts the message-carrying neurotransmitters. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
Considering the current scenario, two aspects need immediate focus, says Dr Rajul Aggrawal, Senior Consultant, Neurologist, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi.

*More people are falling under the category of senior citizens and getting prone to Alzheimer’s or Alzheimer-related symptoms.
*Since the pandemic hit, rapid memory deterioration has been seen among Alzheimer’s patients as Covid affects the neurological system, too.

“In the coming times, we may witness rapid increase in the number of Alzheimer’s patients. Also, they are susceptible to infections like pneumonia and Covid can potentially put them more at risk. Hence along with the regular treatment, prevention from Covid should be priority,” Dr Aggrawal notes.

Common symptoms may include

*Memory loss is the most common sign, like forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information repeatedly; increasingly need help to remember.
*Difficulty concentrating and taking much longer to do things than it did before.
*Difficulty in planning or working with numbers.
Alzheimer's disease, memory loss, signs, indian express, indian express newsAlzheimer's disease, memory loss, signs, indian express, indian express news With Alzheimer’s, a person may witness a persistent decline in their intellectual abilities. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)
*Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People may have trouble driving to a familiar location, remembering the rules of a favourite game.
*Confusion with time or place; forgetting where they are or how they got there. Patients lose track of dates, seasons, and passage of time.
*Trouble understanding visual images and difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining colour or contrast which may cause problems while driving.
*Problems with words in speaking or writing. They may even stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or may even repeat themselves.
*Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
*May use poor judgment when dealing with money.
*Withdrawal from work or social activities: They start to distance themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports, avoid social or family functions or events.
*Changes in mood and personality: They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, and with friends.

The standard treatment goals of dementia management include

*Early diagnosis.
*Manage behaviour and psychological symptoms.
*Better caregiver support.
*Timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s helps both patients and families. This gives valuable time to start the treatment to slow down memory loss.

Is Covid-19 linked to Alzheimer’s disease?

In various studies, there is an early suggestion that Covid-19 can have long-term implications like forgetfulness and execution and language problems, and many others have shown Covid may accelerate Alzheimer’s related symptoms. “A study from Cleveland clinic discovered a close relationship between virus and proteins/genes associated with Alzheimer’s like dementia. More research and long-term studies will be needed to validate these early results and things will become clear in the time to come,” says Dr Kohli.

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