Updated: Jun 13, 2020
Nnena stirred in bed and sighed when she realized what disturbed her sleep at 12am in the morning; her grandfather. Chief Obi was shouting the house down, someone had stolen his money again.
Hard to believe but 71 year old Chief Obi happened to be a force to reckon with in his town, a successful spare parts trader with branches/warehouses all over Nigeria and highly placed children too. Major decisions about family and politics in his town were not made without his consent and approval, he was that big a deal.
As the years went by however, his mental stability was being questioned after a series of repeated happenings; a generally cheerful, kind, high spirited man became irritable with drastic mood swings, many thought it was due to hitting the age '70', but the other changes he experienced falsified that claim including being awake at night and causing trouble, unexplained aggression towards his wife, memory loss and claiming he could hear the voices of kinsmen plotting to take over his businesses.
He became confused and very suspicious of people’s intentions towards him, now very disoriented, he forgot people's names, mistook identities, even his own wife and children, he occasionally called them different names and became sad and withdrawn when he was corrected; he could tell he was struggling to remember things and became tearful when he didn't. As if that wasn't enough, he started missing his way during his evening walks and had to be brought back home by neighbors and well wishers who recognized him.
On this fateful morning at 12 am, he was certain that he had kept his dollars somewhere in the house and disrupted everyone's sleep including his grandkids who were visiting when he couldn't find it. Thankfully, his oldest son was around to remind him he keeps money in a safe at work. That didn't stop him though, he accused everyone of calling him a “a child that did not know its left from right”, and insisted on going to confirm the money was truly in the safe that midnight. It wasn't until he was shown the money the next day he was able to calm down... And many other disconcerting occurrences like these were now a repeat pattern. He was becoming a shadow of himself and everyone knew it, he no longer paid attention to his personal grooming; He never liked letting his beards grow out but he didn't care anymore, his hair and beards grew out, his nails as well, he started looking scruffy and unkempt, very unlike him. His workers complained about his inability to remember their names, he struggled to operate his phone, signing cheques and remembering pins and passwords became an issue. For a man who was so capable to the extent of not needing any previous assistance, it was very unsettling for his family. So, to walk him through these over and over, was a tedious task when a boisterous man was involved.
The midnight money incident was the last straw and his children knew they had to help him especially because the neighbors had started spreading rumors about 'the spirits responsible for his wealth had come to haunt him' and that he was 'going crazy'.
Hence their slight relief when they were referred to a mental health expert by Chief Obi's personal doctor. They were ready to get to the bottom of this and very quickly too. The Expert confirmed after examination and tying all the symptoms together that Chief suffered from Senile Dementia aka Alzheimer’s Dementia.
He further explained that there was no cure but the progression could be slowed down through medication, therapy and some lifestyle changes including diet and exercise. He advised his family members to also make some changes like quit smoking, have an active lifestyle with a healthy diet as well because family history could put them at risk.