Egyptians getting Alzheimer’s, that’s a tough one. Egyptians are fighters by nature but Alzheimer’s is a tough battle. No matter how hard you fight, it tricks you into a different and sneakier round.
Speaking from experience, dealing with Alzheimer’s patient is a tough task. Here in Egypt we are not accustomed to sending our folks and family to care facilities. Not only is the national concept of “save whenever you can” considered a driving reason for such choice but also the concept of shame. In Middle Eastern countries (Muslim countries a bonus) it is considered very disrespectful to send the elderly to a care facility when their children are around. The children –no matter what their situation or the patient’s condition is- are considered ungrateful and are condemned by the society.
Not to mention that the state of most of the governmental healthcare facilities is inhumane and unfit to provide health services. Up to 200 Egyptian hospitals and 3,200 health clinics should be demolished, with shortage in equipment, lack sterilization procedures or techniques and the meager wages of doctors working in public facilities.
Over 1 million Egyptian over 60 years of age suffers from Alzheimer’s disease (as of 2004). The number is not as terrifying as Hepatitis C patients or diabetics, but the curve rises as years go by. The campaigns for dealing with Alzheimer’s patients or supporting their families are not that focused or widely spread. Most Egyptians still mock the idea of Alzheimer’s by referring to it as “the disease where one forgets where he/she put his keys.” My grandfather –Ramsay Hassan- has been recently diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, and the first thing my grandmother thinks of is, “But he remembers everything from his childhood!”
I cannot say that my grandfather has made his amends with Alzheimer’s. During the dreariest times he insists that his cell phone is in fact the TV remote and he puts out oven fire with water from the tea kettle. He sometimes snaps at us for no reason and sulks at other times with no intention to try and uplift his mood. My grandmother is an osteoarthritis patient and she is the one living with my grandfather, watching his drug doses, calculating them and working on his daily routine. Besides her my mother also comes in handy with maintenance of the house and accompanying my grandfather to his doctor appointments. Despite his stubbornness on grocery shopping alone from the nearby market, my grandfather is rarely left alone. The company helps elevate his mood sometimes and the chattering engages him in topics that help him refresh his memory, at least for the time being. He may not be at peace, but he is cocooned within a blanket of care giving that I don’t think he will find at any care facility. On other terms, it’s been really hectic for us ever since his diagnosis, most of the times we are stressed, especially when the symptoms aggravate beyond control. I am not sure till when we will be able to hold it together but I am sure of Ramsay’s will to fight his own demons and launch his own war on Alzheimer’s.
Written By: Jaylan Salah