Alzheimer patients in Yemen confined at home with no treatment
Abdullah explained that she had heard a lot about Alzheimer's disease, but did not expect that a member of her family would suffer it until her 72-year-old mother was diagnosed.
She said that having all the family cooperate and being educated about the disease can help in alleviating it and in making sure the patient takes their medicine.
Health education in general is poor in Yemeni society, particularly about this mental health problem. This ignorance often leads family members to think that a person suffering from Alzheimer’s is insane.
Mohammad Shamiri, 50, still remembers when his mother started to forget many things around her, even the members of his small family.
"She began treating my children as if they were strangers, especially my oldest sons. She was covering her hair and face," said Al-Shamiri.
He blames himself because he wasn’t aware that his mother had Alzheimer’s and not dementia or madness as he thought.
“I moved to another home and left my mother and father alone. I couldn’t endure my mum’s behavior anymore,” said Al-Shamiri.
“Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems to the memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.
It is common among elderly people, particularly among those over 65. It may also appear at an early age in some rare genetic cases, according to Ayd Talha, a psychologist at Al-Amal Hospital in Sana’a.
There are currently no statistics on how many people in Yemen have Alzheimer’s, because many households keep their patients at home and do not seek appropriate medical advice, according to Talha.
He explained the probability of developing Alzheimer’s is about ten percent in people over 80 years old.
About 26.6 million people worldwide suffered from Alzheimer’s in 2006, and this number is expected to increase fourfold by 2050, according to the association.
Most people know of Alzheimer’s as an advanced type of forgetfulness. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.
Its symptoms range from general forgetfulness up to forgetting family members and where home is. The condition hinders the patient in many aspects of their life including driving, cooking and how to wear clothes.
In some cases, patients forget the names of relatives, cannot recognize them in photos, and may become careless with their hygiene.
“There is no medicine to cure Alzheimer’s, because it is not caused by a virus, but it is atrophy of the brain cells that may be associated with getting older, strokes, abdominal problems, blood pressure and family history,” said Dr. Mohamed Al-Ashwal, a psychological consultant.
“There are some drugs that reduce the effects of the disease and compensate the brain with fluids which are being lost with getting older. These drugs are costly since only a limited number of European drug companies monopolize their manufacture,” he added.
The price of the medicine may exceed YR 20,000 (USD 100) which is generally unaffordable in Yemen with its low wages, according to Al-Ashwal.