Alzheimer’s is a Disease of the Brain
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease which causes a decline over many years in memory, thinking (cognitive) and reasoning or judgement. Dementia is an umbrella term for loss of cognition skills. What used to be called senility is now termed “dementia” and Alzhiemer’s disease is the most prevalent of the brain affecting diseases. Over five million Americans are battling Alzheimer’s disease. It affects the person, their family and threatens the U.S. economy due its demands on the budget.
Much is research is being done worldwide as the race is on to help prevent, slow and hopefully cure Alzheimer’s before millions more Baby Boomers succumb to this disease. It begins with loss of short term memory, increased confusion, loss of thinking capacity and ultimately, as the disease continues through the brain, to affect organs until death results. Currently there are several medications which can slow the symptoms in the early and middle phases. There is as of now, no cure.
Certainly aging does affect memory but for typical age-related lapses, the memory comes back later and the person is able to solve the problem by thinking and reasoning it through. A person in the grasp of Alzheimer’s or other neurological disease, cannot think their way out of it, or look up the information they have trouble remembering.
Ten Signs of Beginning Alzheimer’s disease
- Forgetfulness which interrupts day to day life. People quickly forget new information, important dates or appointments and repetitive questioning about the same information.
- Difficulty in following directionsand trouble concentrating to complete a routine task.
- Struggle in finishing an undertakingsuch as driving to a familiar place or playing a favorite game or cooking.
- Becoming disoriented to time or place– not knowing the date or season or getting confused or lost in a familiar surroundings.
- Difficulty with visual or spatial forms– this will affect reading, judging distances, driving.
- Complications with language– trouble with words both spoken and writing; difficulty joining a conversation or stopping mid-sentence and repetition or using the wrong words.
- Losing things and being unable to retrace their steps-may put things in strange places (keys in fridge), cannot go over actions in their mind and accuse others of stealing.
- Loss of judgement– this is an executive power which is lost in Alzheimer’s disease – person cannot be relied upon to make good decisions – i.e. giving money away or lax hygiene.
- Withdrawal from others– he or she will stop attending social meetings, cease to work and stopping hobbies they used to enjoy.
- Personality and mood changes-They change because they experience a lot of confusion and loss of standard markers so their mood and personality becomes altered.
Loved ones, co-workers, friends or the banker teller may see changes in the person, but lapses in memory and mistakes are easily explained away. Once such changes in memory and task completion can no longer be explained away or “denied” it is important to see a Neurologist and undergo some testing. Ideally, people in their sixties will see a neurologist for a baseline evaluation to be able to be compared to later on. Early diagnosis leads to earlier treatment which can maximize time before being overrun by the disease progression. Day Care centers are a good way of keeping the person cognitively challenged at their level of ability. You may also enter a research trial for new medications. Learn about the Alzheimer’s disease, join a support group and become a member of the Alzheimer’s Association. Research is the key for all of us Boomers!