Counseling helped the family accept his diagnosis and care for him better
Anand (name changed), 71, lives in a joint family of six people. After having worked as a stenographer in a government organization, Anand retired ten years ago. A man of few words, he is a strict disciplinarian and is very systematic in his work.
A few days post retirement, Anand's family observed that he was having difficulty in recalling names of family members and friends. He misplaced things at home and kept looking for them everywhere. The family dismissed his memory problems as part of his aging, because he was still able to manage most other activities independently.
As days passed, he began to forget recent conversations, would repeatedly ask about the same information, or would forget the route to familiar places that he had been visiting regularly earlier. He also became slow in going about his daily activities. When reminded about completing any unfinished task, Anand would get irritated and retort, “I know what to do, you don't have to keep telling me.” Such incidents caused a lot of unrest at home.
One day, Anand had gone out and did not return until late in the evening. His wife called him several times on his mobile phone but failed to reach him. The anxious family set out to look for him. Anand was found two streets away from their home, looking confused and lost. On being questioned, he said that he was confused about the route back home and did not know what to do. At this point, the family was convinced that Anand needed professional help and decided to consult a doctor.
When the doctor inquired about the family history, it was found that Anand's mother also had similar problems in her old age. At the hospital, a complete case history was taken. A detailed neuropsychological assessment and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan indicated that there were deficits in delayed recall, and difficulties in comprehending certain commands. After a complete examination, Anand was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which was in the first stage of illness. The family was very distressed when they heard this news. They asked the doctor about the progression of the illness and all aspects of caregiving. The daughters, knowing how their grandmother suffered and how her illness was ignored, were now feeling overly protective about their father.
Though the daughters accepted the father’s illness, the wife found it extremely difficult to accept that her husband had Alzheimer's disease. The thought of caring for him everyday was quite overwhelming because she herself was 68 years old and was suffering from severe osteoarthritis. Her complaint was that no one understood her problems and that her husband needed to take care of himself. The daughters found this situation difficult to manage.
After several family counseling sessions, Anand's wife was able to accept her husband's illness. She and her daughters have made a fixed activity schedule for Anand, and he is also pursuing some of his hobbies to keep himself occupied. The family support and care is helping Anand cope with the condition.
This is a real person account recorded by Prafulla S, PhD Scholar at NIMHANS with the consent of the narrator. Names have been changed for privacy.