In recent years, perception about Alzheimer’s disease in Saudi Arabia has gradually started to change as more people are becoming aware of its symptoms and are not confusing it with mere memory loss.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and causes disability in carrying out even simple tasks, including bioprocesses. People suffering from the disease are generally elderly, who have crossed the age of 60.
An uptick in awareness
Sara Al-Rasheed, Health Educator in Saudi Alzheimer’s Disease Association, believes that there is a slight improvement in the community about general health awareness. “Six years ago we had not even heard about the word Alzheimer’s, but lately it has become known through the word of mouth but merely as a disease about forgetfulness!” She says.
However, Sara claims that general understanding about the disease has improved with increased successful diagnosis of the disease. In this year, visitors to workshops, events, and conferences spreading awareness about the disease increased to 1 million across Saudi Arabia, not just in the capital Riyadh. Nowadays, beneficiaries’ database at the Saudi Alzheimer’s Disease Association has risen to 1,227 patients.
“Many countries have exact statistics about the number of patients suffering from this disease, but in Saudi Arabia the case is different. Lack of information about its prevalence is because of the perception that its symptoms are only a natural part of aging, and some families refuse to accept it as a disease in itself,” says Sara.
The dark horses in the fight against Alzheimer’s are the caregivers. Asma Mohammed has been a caregiver for over than 14 years. She has taken care of her mother, ailing from the disease, for a long time. Meanwhile, she has also been helping other caregivers and supports them.
Helping without hope
Sheikha Al-Rukban and Wijdan Jalal Aldeen, didn’t expect dealing with more than memory loss, fears and hallucinations, until they were confronted with their patients’ disabilities. Patients rely on their caregivers, not only for their medication but also for settling their legal issues and expenses.
Shadia Ba Ali, a psychologist and caregiver, explains that it’s not just about amnesia, but Alzheimer’s also leads to several physiological changes that make the battle harder for them to fight. Another caregiver, Faisal Al Othaim agrees that amnesia often leads to insomnia, anxiety and illusions.
And at the end of the day, Alzheimer’s caregivers understand that there is no cure for this disease, and all they are fighting for is the mitigation of the symptoms and improving the quality of lives of their patients.