15 March 2017

Seychelles: Alzheimer's Patients Are Not Crazy, Local Foundation in Seychelles Says

Photo: Patrick Joubert/Seychelles News Agency
By having a centre and home for people suffering from Alzheimer, Lise Church envisions better care and supervision.

The founder of Seychelles Alzheimer's Foundation (SAF) would like to see people suffering from the disease being better taken care of and understood.

"I believe that many people here in Seychelles do not realise what their loved one is going through. People need to understand that Alzheimer's patients are not crazy. They lose their memories and this affects their personality," said the SAF's founder, Lise Church.

To educate people in Seychelles about the disease and provide support to those suffering from it, Church set up the foundation in February 2016.

A foundation based on personal experience

Church knows the disease well as it has touched her family directly. Before her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative disease that causes memory and behavior problem mostly in elderly adults, Church started noticing behavioural changes.

"Everything started with him going through depression and became unkempt. His hygiene was very important to him but then he wouldn't change his clothes or have a shower," said Church.

She shared with SNA that it was hard to convince her husband to get medical assistance for his depression. After seeing several specialists, Church's husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and has since gone through various stages of the disease.

"It has been eight years since he was diagnosed and he is docile and resembles a child. I was advised by a doctor in America to put him in a home and told that I would not be able to take care of him," said Church.

She went against the doctor's advice and brought her husband to Seychelles where she hired someone to take care of him around the clock.

A centre for Alzheimer's patients

"I can afford a 24-hour carer but how many people here in Seychelles can do that? When I visited the elderly home at North East Point I found out that there are empty wings there. I asked the government if the foundation can convert the around 30 rooms and make them conducive for Alzheimer's patients," Church shared.

By having a centre and home for these people, Church envisions better care and supervision, as at the moment "carers sometimes do not come to work or mistreat the patients."

"We need to have support groups and a place where people can be trained and learn more about the disease. The caregivers will benefit from this," said Church.

She wishes to use the centre as a place for respite, as "taking care of an Alzheimer patient is a 24-hour job and if the person wants the weekend off, this will be the place they could leave the patient."

A Neurologist's perspective

Doctor Aleksandar Jesic, a physician -neurologist at the Ministry of Health, said that it is hard for family members to deal with the changes that patients go through.

"Alzheimer's is not only the loss of memory. There are so many other issues that come up through the course of the disease," said Jesic.

He elaborated that "their personality changes and the patients lose insights and awareness of their illnesses."

Depression, anxiety, psychotic manifestations and aggression, both verbal and physical, are also common.

The physician-neurologist said that there are two ways of treating Alzheimer's disease - pharmacological treatment which is the use of medicine and other conventional medication, and non-pharmacological treatment, where everyone in the society has to be engaged to provide care for these people.

He estimated that there are between 1000 to 2000 people in Seychelles suffering from the disease. He based this on the world statistic that "every eighth person older than 65-years of age suffers or will suffer from Alzheimer's disease."

Seychelles' Ministry of Health is working to educate doctors in local clinics on how to diagnose and start treatment of dementia and has formed a "memory clinic" to serve this purpose.

Foreign experts provide training

The Ministry of Health with the collaboration of SAF and Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) from California held a one-week workshop to provide training on Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.

This was the third of a series of programmes organized by the SAF.

"We have a wonderful opportunity to build a quality service and to follow good examples, eliminate mistakes and to do a good job. We are on a good path," said Jesic.

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