FIGHTING ALZHEIMER'S WITH AYURVEDA
Being a doctor by profession, I do not get much time to write. Still, sometimes there are experiences that are way beyond the ordinary, and which must be shared with other people. They are truly too good to be true! From the bottom of my heart I wish that other people could also benefit from them, to diminish their grievances.
This story is about my father, Mr. G.P.N. Singh, 61 years old, who has been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years.
It started back in 2004, during the days of my final MBBS exams, when I became aware that he was not taking any interest in my studies in the same way he normally did. I did not pay too much notice, and passed my exams with good results. The same happened during my internship, he was not very much interested in talking to me on the phone. This came as a bit of a surprise to me since my father had always had a personality that was quite dominating, with a tendency to be aggressive and short tempered. He also could be very particular about certain things – in fact, it was he who had decided that I should pursue a career as a doctor. And now he was not even asking about anything related to my job or my further studies. My mother also felt the same way regarding certain things at home.
And then it happened, before he was to retire in July 2006, that he didn't bother to go to work for eight consecutive months. When my mother asked, "Why don't you go to the office," he would shout back at her, "To HELL with the office. I don't like the damn atmosphere there." (His job was that of an Executive Engineer (SDO) at the UP State Electricity Board.) That again was very surprising for the whole family, but, as I mentioned, he was a very dominating person, and so we could not do much about his decision.
In July 2006, he retired. Since he had been absent from his work for eight months, all his claims and his pension were withheld. He was very worried and sad about that, while quietly staying in his room and becoming increasingly aloof. During the same time, my mother noticed that he was repeatedly forgetting small things of his daily routine. We were all asking him to go and straighten out the situation at his work, which he in turn attempted to avoid as much as he could.
Eventually, my mother went with him to his office. And she was shocked to see that he was not able to fill out a simple form. The only thing he managed was doing his signature. During that time I was preparing for my post-graduate exam. When my mother informed me about this incident, I told her to take him to see a psychiatrist immediately. However, to take my father to a doctor had always been very difficult. We convinced him, though, by arguing that a medical certificate would help to get all the money back that was due to him. So, finally, he went to see the doctor, and the diagnosis was Alzheimer's disease.
I was deeply shocked. I didn't know what to do, or where to go. We visited two or three doctors in Varanasi, and medication was started with Donepezil (10 mg OD). Meanwhile, I got selected for my post-graduate exam, specializing in Gynae and Obs., in Kolkata in 2007.
Still, the story was only getting started. My father was getting more and more aggressive, beating my mother and as well as my brother. No one was able do something about his aggressive behavior. He lost his ability to speak properly and became very forgetful. Also, he refused to sign papers, which up to that point he had been doing. This had an extremely disturbing effect on the whole family. Again I took him to Varanasi to visit another psychiatrist, who gave the same diagnosis and told me quite bluntly, "I am helpless, you are helpless, in fact, everyone is helpless before this disease."
I started to feel really bad about myself, because I was seeing how my own beloved father was slowly dying, day by day, and as a doctor I wasn't able to do anything about it. Nor was I able to stop my tears, and I finally decided to bring him to Kolkata for another consultation. Same story in Kolkata, same medicines. Additionally, I brought my father to my own institution. My professor was very sympathetic and helpful, and prescribed an antipsychotic medicine to control his anger. After changing it three times, we found an antipsychotic, "Olanzepine", which was successful to some extent, but again, his aggression was so intense that I had to increase the dose, and that in turn increased the negative side-effects.
But the worst was yet to come. During this period of about two years, my mother was feeling quite depressed about my father's condition, although she was able to take very good care of him. Still, despite this, in September 2008, just one year ago, my father one day disappeared. This was definitely an indication to which extent the disease had progressed. Through God's grace and great efforts of our's and of some good people in Varanasi, we managed to find him again after three days. He was found lying in the mud, 25 km away from our home, without shoes or pants, and without any money. It seemed that he hadn't had any water to drink for at least three days! My father, who had been a winner throughout his life, was lying there like a beggar!!! The condition he was in was the most unimaginable and horrifying experience. It was very difficult for me to come to terms with something as shocking as this happening to my father and to my whole family.
My father had been leading a very successful and respectful life, but Alzheimer's took everything away - dignity, respect, social relations... Physically he might be there, but we lost him as a father, my mother lost him as a husband, and he lost himself, and everything else. And we did not know for how long this nightmare and this agony would continue. With other life-threatening diseases like cancer, at least you don't suffer so much for so long. But with Alzheimer's, you are there until your last breath.
At that time it became very obvious to me that things could not continue like this. I had to take care more and more of my mother, who was suffering both physically and mentally. Being responsible for all of my father's activities as well as caring for my grandmother became too much of a strain for her, and she became increasingly depressive. I contacted the Kolkata chapter of ARDSI (Alzheimer’s Related Disorders Society of India) to get a professional care-giver, but without luck. I contacted Delhi chapter, where I got the latest news on Alzheimer's, to the effect that methylene blue dye is in phase III trial and its effect on "tau" protein is quite effective.
To find out more details, I contacted a volunteer in ARDSI, Mr Vijay Seth, a 72 year old man whose mother had died of the disease. He told me to contact several doctors in Delhi, and at the same time suggested that I enquire about Dr Harsh Sehgal, saying that in the April 2009 issue of the magazine "Life Positive" he had read about this doctor who is giving Ayurvedic treatment to his Alzheimer's patients and is getting good results.
I contacted Dr Harsh Sehgal in April 2009 and visited his office in Dehradun two months later. The treatment started on June 15, 2009. As I write this, my father has taken the medicines for two and a half months, and all his anger has gone. My mother still helps him with his daily routine, but now he is not beating her up any more. In fact, he has become quite cooperative. He is speaking a few new sentences every day and to some extent is answering questions correctly. His vocabulary has increased – I talk to him every day on the phone to find out about some new words he has learned.
Previously, when I used to call my mother every morning, I had to brace myself mentally and patiently listened to her troubles, because I felt that that would help her cope with her mental pressure. Nowadays, I still call her every morning, and I find that her voice has totally changed. She is so much more relaxed and enthusiastic, and it appears that that strong and assertive mother that I used to have is right back.
Up to now, the responses to the ayurvedic medicine of Dr Harsh have been one hundred percent positive, and we are confident it will get even better in the future. Along with the positive changes in my father, positive changes are there in my mother, too. And I can do my own job satisfactorily because I know my father is well taken care of at home. It seems that the nightmare is almost over.
Previously, I was preparing myself for the worst. But now, I am truly hoping for the best, and quite realistically so.
With lots of good luck,
Dr Shalini Chauhan
MBBS, DGO (Gynae & Obs.)
SSKM Hospital, 242 AJC Bose Road,
KOLKATA – 20
Phone - 09434335546