Dealing with Muslim Patients with Dementia

Samara, Naim, Nassir, Mona, Malika, yes that’s it Malikah. How are you? I waited patiently as
my grandmother called the names of her grandchildren before she recognized that I was the one
standing before her. I was not alarmed initially because it is normal to have a typical age-related
change. Sometimes forgetting names but remembering them later.

Roughly, three years passed when I received a startling phone call from my Aunt who expressed
that my grandmother was missing! Missing? I was alarmed. I lived 3000 miles away. Five hours
and three cups of coffee later, I received a follow up call from my Aunt. My grandmother was
found at 2 am sitting on the curb in front of the closed thrift store where she frequently shopped.

I knew it was time to have my grandmother evaluated. I flew to Los Angeles and accompanied
my grandmother to her doctor’s appointment. Our worst fear, early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s
type.

I went into instant Case Manager mode. I called a family meeting, developed a care plan and had
several referrals to Adult Day Health Care Centers. My grandmother and family members had
other plans. My grandmother was in denial, believing if she rested more she would recover her
memory. My family realized their lives would change because they would become caregivers
twenty-four hours a day. We all wondered is it really genetic? Will I get it too?

Six year passed and it was too late for my grandmother to attend Adult Day Health Care as she
was wandering, combinative, required assistance with bathing and dressing. She was unable to
reposition herself in bed or while seated which caused a small wound on her leg that grew larger
and never healed.

I was offered employment at a University in Pennsylvania. I asked the manager if I could start
work a month later because I needed to take a trip to visit my grandmother in Los Angeles. The
Manager was puzzled and asked if my grandmother was ill. No, it’s just something I need to do.

I sat directly across from my grandmother, clearly I was a stranger to her as she introduced me to
my own family repeatedly. On the twelfth time she asked my name I patiently replied Malikah,
her eye grew wide, her face lit up with a huge smile and her arms were out stretched to hug me.
In the second it took for me to stand to embrace her she withdrew and I was the stranger again.
Alhamdulillah, I was elated! She remembered me!

One year later at 94 years old my grandmother died from complication of diabetes. A disease we
didn’t know she had. Researchers have linked diabetes to vascular disease including Alzheimer’s.

February 2012, 10 years later, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, makes Alzheimer’s treatment a top priority, focusing on the burden the disease places
on families and caregivers. Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death in the country without a
means to prevent, cure or slow its progression. Let’s join the effort in our community.

16:70 It is Allah who creates you and takes your souls at death; and of you there are some who
are sent back to a feeble age, so that they know nothing after having known (much): for Allah is
All-Knowing, All-Powerful.

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