The scourge that is Alzheimer’s
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease which begins with mild memory loss and can lead to the loss of a person’s ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their surroundings, since it involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.7 million Americans were living with the disease in 2018. In most people, symptoms start appearing after the age of 60. However, by the time those symptoms show up, the person has likely had the disease for a decade, possibly longer.
Symptoms include problems with memory that interfere with daily activities, such as repeating the same question over and over or getting lost in places the person knows well. Other symptoms may include trouble with finances, problems finishing common tasks, changes to personality or behavior which could include severe agitation, and the inability to retrace one’s steps to find misplaced items.
An early diagnosis can offer people living with the disease and their families the chance to plan for future care needs and prepare for the financial cost, to educate themselves about what to expect and write advance directives, and to evaluate their eligibility for upcoming clinical trials.
For adults 65 and older, Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death. It is the sixth leading cause of death among all adults. And unlike cancer and heart disease, death rates for Alzheimer’s continue to rise.
Alzheimer’s disease can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. While scientists continue to learn more about the disease each day, they still do not know what causes it, and there is currently no known cure. However, the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease – and the people who care for them – can be improved through treatment.
Treatment addresses several different areas of the disease, such as slowing its symptoms, managing changes in behavior and maintaining proper mental function, primarily through a variety of prescription medications. The cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease is expected to fall somewhere between $379 billion and over $500 billion by 2040, according to the CDC.
The majority of medications are most effective in the disease’s early and middle stages, and some people with Alzheimer’s may respond better to some drugs than they do to others. Side effects are possible with all medications, and patients are generally started on low doses to see how well they tolerate the drug. Higher doses increase the risk of side effects.
Research is also under way into nondrug treatments to manage mood and behavioral changes caused by the disease and to restore, for a time, dignity and quality of life to those living with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the friends and family members caring for them.
While some risks to brain health, such as heredity and age, are uncontrollable, others can be managed. Keeping active is one way to keep your body healthy and control the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease, as is keeping your brain active through continued learning and games that stimulate your brain.
Some risks to cardiovascular health are also linked to brain health and controlling them can also help to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Managing activities such as smoking and controlling conditions such as obesity and diabetes can be beneficial to your brain as well.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver is forced to adjust to declining ability levels and different behavior patterns. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, those living with it often require more intensive care.
Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in homecare. Visiting Angels non-medical homecare services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines and familiar surroundings. To set up an appointment for a no-obligation in-home assessment, call 330-332-1203.