Finding out that his mother had Alzheimer’s disease was a huge blow for KamalMoumneh.“It was shocking. I didn’t know what it was,” said MrMoumneh, 46.But joining the Dubai Health Authority Alzheimer’s support group three months ago has greatly helped him to cope with the disease, which was diagnosed in his mother two and a half years ago.
“It made a tremendous difference to me because initially I felt alone,” said MrMoumneh, the founder of an education technology company.“All the resources I’d get were online and it just wasn’t enough.”Psychological support for patients with chronic diseases and their families can significantly help, doctors say.But with the country’s healthcare system continuing to develop, there is more room for resources such as support groups and counselling.Initiatives from patients and families could also be key, experts say.“In my opinion it’s totally underdeveloped,
” said Dr TimoBrosig, chief executive of the German Neuroscience Centre, which is developing an Alzheimer’s support group for its patients. • “People have very, very high expectations and they are looking for single treatment.”Support groups can provide psychological relief for people dealing with the same disease and help them to feel less isolated.“I think, probably, if you look back at the healthcare systems in other countries,
this is not something that has developed from the first day,” said Dr Brosig. “The motivation must come out of the patient or the caregiver.”Dr Louise Lambert, psychology professor at the Canadian University of Dubai who has worked in Canada’s healthcare system, said the benefits of positive psychology could also affect patients’ treatment.
“With a sense of meaning people cope better, but also their perceptions of physical pain are lessened,” Dr Lambert said.“Simply put, they are too busy to be feeling bad but also feel like life is too important, so they have an interest in keeping themselves psychologically well and healthy, so as to enjoy life the most they can. • “People who are happier also tend to take better care of themselves physically. They follow doctors’ orders, sleep better, exercise more, smoke less and have better relationships.”Treating diseases can be “a two-way street”, Dr Brosig said.
“A chronic disease can affect your psychology. You can get depressed and suffer from anxiety,” he said.“But if you are depressed and you don’t have enough support, the medical treatment gets more difficult, or the disease will progress much faster.”The DHA Alzheimer’s group has dealt with myths about the disease and increased awareness, since it is often considered a normal part of ageing, said Dr Mohammed Al Noamani, of the Family Gathering Centre for the elderly, in Al Mamzar.
Families can now call an around-the-clock hotline for Alzheimer’s caregivers when they face problems such as shouting, wandering, screaming, refusal of food and sexual harassment from their loved ones, said Dr Al Noamani.MrMoumneh’s mother, 66, is incapacitated and has had from psychological problems such as paranoia, anger and confusion for years, and refused to see a doctor, he said.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and late-stage dementia surprised MrMoumneh, who had associated the disease with forgetfulness – a symptom his mother did not display. Since, she has been in a rapid decline.He attends monthly meetings with the Alzheimer’s group. Those at the meetings may speak for a few minutes about their experiences and other issues, and there is usually a presentation on a topic related to the disease, such as treatment and recreational benefits.Meeting others who understand what he is going through and can help “just takes a load off your shoulders”, MrMoumneh said.“It’s a tremendous lift.”