Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, a chronic disorder marked by memory loss, impaired reasoning and personality changes.
Although it is not a normal part of aging, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age.
Alzheimer's is a progressive and fatal disease that destroys brain cells and causes irreversible mental impairment. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors are involved in the onset of symptoms. There is no cure, but treatment and support can make life more pleasant for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Symptoms develop slowly and are often hard to detect in the early stages.
Eventually, confusion, memory loss, repetitive speech, and a declining ability to learn and reason are increasingly apparent.
Glasses, keys, and hearing aids are routinely misplaced. Names and appointments are forgotten. Reading, writing, and simple conversation are a daily challenge. And balancing the checkbook is out of the question.
As Alzheimer's disease progresses, disorientation to time and place is common, along with mood swings, stubbornness, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior and a loss of initiative.
People with advanced Alzheimer's disease usually need help with even the most basic daily tasks, like eating, dressing, and grooming. They are also at critical risk of falling, which can result in life threatening fractures and head injuries.
The following are some risk factors in determining how prone one can be to Alzheimer's disease.
Age: nearly 50 percent of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer's disease. Less than few people between 65 to 74 are affected, and it is extremely rare in people under 40.
Heredity: research shows that people who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's are at greater risk of developing the disease.
Cardiovascular health: the risk of developing Alzheimer's appears to be higher when the circulatory system is compromised by high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes or high cholesterol. Eating well and keeping mentally and physically active may actually help prevent or postpone the development of Alzheimer's.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but drugs can help relieve the symptoms, including anxiety, depression, agitation, and insomnia. Speak to your doctor about new drugs being developed to slow the loss of cognitive function.
As much as possible, keep the living environment calm and stable. Don't present complex tasks. Needless to say, caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease is demanding and can set off feelings of anger, guilt, frustration, and depression. Ask for help from friends, family, home-care agencies, and local support groups.
For those with Alzheimer's disease, a distressing mix of emotions can be triggered, from fear or anger to grief and depression, as loved ones and treasured memories are often forgotten.
Familiar activities and places continue to fade into a dark and confused world. Now, more than ever, it's important to offer respect, support and reassurance.