Alzheimer’s – It’s not the person, it’s the disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a common neurological condition that affects the elderly. This condition is a form of dementia, accounting for 60–80% of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The vast majority of patients get Alzheimer’s disease after the age of 65, whereas a small group of people gets what is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (i.e., it occurs early on in life).
Unfortunately, there is no curative therapy for Alzheimer’s; however, the scientific community made impressive advances in treating this condition.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that attacks and destroys the connections between your brain cells. It can lead to memory loss, thought and behavioral issues that seriously affect the work and life of the individual and his lifestyle. These changes give rise to the classical but tragic picture of a person who can walk and talk but “cannot make sense of the world,” says Scientific American. Today, Alzheimer’s disease ranks as the sixth leading global cause of death. Alzheimer’s disease does not currently have a cure, but symptoms can be treated so as to make their life easier and help them deal with the disease.
In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease
Similar to other neurodegenerative diseases, researchers have yet to uncover the exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, some risk factors have been identified, including:
Age – most cases of Alzheimer’s disease occur after the age of 65.
Family history – having a family member with Alzheimer’s disease increases your risk of getting this illness.
Genetics – researchers identified certain genetic traits that precipitate Alzheimer’s disease. More specifically, the Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the gene that interested scientists, as it seems to drive the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
If you often get worried about this condition, you may want to speak with your doctor about the potential risk of developing it. Also, you should keep in mind that having these risk factors does not necessarily translate into Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
While everyone forgets things from time to time, patients with Alzheimer’s disease present with a worsening case of cognitive decline and behavioral abnormalities.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Memory loss that affects daily activities (e.g., appointments, parking spot)
- Having trouble with basic tasks (e.g., using the microwave)
- The inability to solve simple problems
- Experiencing difficulties with speech and writing
- Frequent disorientation about time and places
- Lower personal hygiene
- Mood swings and personality changes
Here are some issues that can affect people with Alzheimer’s disease:
- They will repeat the same words and phrases
- They will forget about appointments or deadlines
- They will put things in the wrong place or even in totally illogical places
- The names of their family members are forgotten and the names of things they use every day.
- Problems with being able to find a location.
Short-term memory loss and states of uncertainty and disorientation can appear in the first stage of Alzheimer’s. This will eventually lead to permanent damage of the mental capacities. The patient will also lose his ability to recall, rationalize, reason, and learn.
At first each person will find it harder and harder to remember some things. They will start forgetting where they put their car keys, or the names of people. Then it will progress to long-term memory loss.
Typically, these symptoms worsen over time, which steal patients’ autonomy. As a result, appointing someone for regular care becomes indispensable.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease
Unfortunately, we still don’t have curative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is that ongoing research resulted in a better understanding of this disease, which led to better medication development.
The FDA has approved two drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease -cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Neurologists may also prescribe medications for sleep loss, confusion, anxiety, insomnia and depression. These medications are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms that sometimes accompany Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients with moderate cases of Alzheimer’s may benefit from drugs such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs maintain the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, which is a type of neurotransmitters that interferes with a myriad of cognitive functions, including memory.
Severe cases may require the prescription of memantine (Namenda) – a drug that blocks the action of glutamate. The latter is a brain chemical that is abnormally high in Alzheimer’s disease, wreaking havoc on brain cells.
Other drug options include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytic drugs.
Guidelines for coping with Alzheimer’s disease
A major aspect for coping with Alzheimer’s disease is developing a recovery strategy or treatment plan. The plan should adapt to the living environment and to the needs of the person. To help a person cope with Alzheimer’s disease, some steps may need to be taken:
- Try keeping items in the same location in your house. Keep keys, wallets, mobile phones, and other valuables in the same place so that they are not forgotten.
- Organizing a time schedule with medicine, preferably once a day, or setting an alarm as a reminder.
- Make use of cell phone locator software. This is helpful in the event that the person gets lost or forgets their directions.
- Keep the family or family telephone numbers in a conveniently accessible place to assist them in case they forget.
- To keep track of everyday schedules, use a calendar or whiteboard at home.
- Take care of your place of residence and eliminate clutter.
- Keeping family and friends around the patient is important for support.
- Maintain a regular routine in order to reduce confusion and help the patient communicate.
What to take Home
Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely common condition that shatters people’s quality of life, leading to physical, psychological, and emotional burdens.
Hopefully, this article served as an introduction to Alzheimer’s disease.
If the person gets angry and fights back remember that it’s not the person fighting back it’s the disease.