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Alzheimer's - General Understanding
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that destroys brain cells. It slowly causes memory loss, trouble with thinking and speaking, and personality changes. Alzheimer's gas worse over time. Eventually; it can make carrying out simple daily tasks-like cooking a meal or getting dress impossible. In cases of very severe In cases of very severe Alzheimer's.It affects your ability to speak, your bladder and bowel control, and your ability to walk without assistance.
The brain cells that this disease attacks are mainly in parts of the brain involved in memory and thinking. There is no cure, for Alzheimer's disease, but current treatments may slow the advance of symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia (a decline in mental function that interferes with daily living) . About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's.
The older you arc, the greater your chances of developing Alzheimer's. About I in 8 people aged 65 and older are affected, and nearly half of those who live to age 85 have Alzheimer´s.
Symptoms & Signs
Everyone is forgetful now and again. Simply forgetting where you put your keys or why you started looking through that
junk drawer isn't a sign of Alzheimer's. Many older people are afraid that having more of these kinds of lapses means they have Alzheimer's, but it's normal to be a hit more forgetful as you get older. There are inmint differences between simple forgetfulness and dementia(see the chart Maw).
Normal aging or dementia?
Be aware of these warning signs. If you notice them in yourself or a loved one, talk to a doctor. Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medications tend to work best on symptoms that are caught early. Also, an early diagnosis allows you to plan for the future.
Trouble remembering things. Short-term memory is affected first. The individual may forget an appointment or the name of a new acquaintance.
Mood or personality changes. The person may suddenly become angry or sad for no apparent reason. Someone who is social and outgoing may become withdrawn or distrustful. Be alert for signs of depression: loss of interest in a favorite hobby or activity, a change in appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, lack of energy and hopelessness.
Trouble completing ordinary tasks. Simple task may now be difficult. For example, the individual may forget how to use the oven, lock the door, or get dressed.
Trouble finding the right word. The individual may try describing an object rather than using it's name-for example, referring to the telephone as "the ringer" or "that thing I call people with."
Putting things in unusual places. The person may put his shoes in the microwave or his keys in the freezer.
Poor judgment. Making decisions and planning become more difficult. The person may choose summer clothes even when it's very cold outside.
Trouble with abstract thinking. The person may have trouble doing simple math, paying bills, or balancing a check book.
Disorientation. Someone with Alzheimer's disease may get lost in his or her own neighborhood. He or she may also lose track of dates and the time.
Unusual behavior. The person may wander, become agitated, or hide things. Or, they might wear too few or too many clothes, become overly suspicious, engage in unsafe behaviors, or use foul language to an unusual degree.
Passive behavior. Instead of doing once-loved things, like gardening or golfing, the person sits in front of the television by hours or they sleep for much longer periods.
There are different ways to gauge the severity of Alzheimer's disease. Patients and caregivers are interviewed to assess the patient's memory, awareness of the world around them, judgment, ability to solve problems, relationship to their community, how they function at home, and their personal care. Their condition is judged to be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the results of the interview.
Here arc some examples of symptoms of each of the stages of Alzheimer's:
If you think that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer's disease, talk to a doctor:
There is no simple test for Alzheimer's. Because many other health problems can produce symptoms similar to early Alzheimer's, reaching the correct diagnosis is complicated. That´s why it's wise to find a doctor experienced in diagnosing the disease.
Be sure to bring a list of all the drugs the person is taking to the appointment. Also make a list of any changes in mental ability, mood, personality, and behavior, and bring this too. It can help the doctor in the evaluation.
The doctor will perform a complete physical exam and mental status testing. For example. the doctor may ask the patient to perform simple mental exercises, such as counting backward by sevens, obeying written instructions, memorizing words, copying designs, and performing simple calculations.
A brain scan, such as a cl' or MRI. may also be ordered. These scans can rule our other health problems that affect thinking and memory, such as a tumor, hemorrhage. or stroke. They can also show changes in the brain that go hand-in-hand with Alzheimer's. Other types of brain scans, called PET (positron emission tomography) or SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scans, can help your doctor make a diagnosis.
Talking to your doctor
You should talk to your doctor whenever any wanting signs are present. Bring a list of the warning signs that are present, how often they occur, and the warning signs that are absent. Ask the doctor if a formal assessment (interviews, physical examination, laboratory resting, and brain imaging studies) is needed.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment now that can prevent or cure Alzheimer's disease. Scientists are trying to develop drugs to block Alzheimer's, but these therapies are years away. The main goal of treatment is to improve a person's quality of life. There are some medications that can keep memory problems or other symptoms from worsening for a while as well as help with mood or behavior problems.
It´s important to know what treatment can do and be realistic about what to expect.
Treatment is working if Alzheimer's disease symptoms:
Drugs for Alzheimer's Disease
Drugs such as donepezil, rivastigmine, plant amine. tacrine, and memantine can help symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, including thinking and memory problems.
Donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, and racorinc belong to a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. They increase the brain chemical acetylcholine, which alfeers memory and learning.
Memantine works differently. It is an NN/DA (N-merbILLaspartate) antagonist, and it works by blocking the ic: I glutamate in the brain. Glutamate plays a role in destroying neurons. Memantine is used for people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease.
Combining memantine and another Alzheimer's medication (called "combination therapy") may be particularly effective. A Müs study from doctors at Harvard Medical School found that people with Alzheimer's who took memantine plus a cholinesterase inhibitor were more likely to have a slower decline in their mental abilities and their ability to function compared with people who took a cholinesterase inhibitor alone. An earlier large study found that combination therapy (memanrine plus donepezil) improved a person's ability to think and to perform basic tasks like bathing and dressing. It also improved behavior problems.
Living with Alzheimer's disease
Tips for caregivers
Get organized. Call a family meeting to decide what kind of care is needed. Try to put aside differences so the focus stays on your loved one's needs. Make a list of what needs to he done and who can do it.
Ask for help. Try to find out whether your loved one already has an informal network of support. Do any friends and neighbors stop by to visit or lend a hand? If you ask them to do so, many people may be willing to help more formally or call you if anything seems wrong.
Collect medical information. Keep a file that includes information on the patient's current ailments, medications, allergies, medical history, specialists seen, and treatments.
Plan ahead. There will come a time when the person with Alzheimer's cm no longer manages his or her affairs.
Do not assume that you'll have advanced notice. Alzheimer's disease is unpredictable, and the person whose cognitive problems seem mild may unexpectedly make irrational decisions with disastrous consequences. Talk to an attorney about a durable power of attorney. Through a durable power of attorney, the patient with Alzheimer's grants another person (usually the caregiver) the power to make decisions on his or her behalf regarding property, residence, and other financial affairs. such as paying bills.
Prepare advance directives and a will. Also have the patient complete an advance directive for health care.
There are two types:1) a living Will, and 2) a durable power of attorney for health care. Because living wills are narrower, many people opt for a durable power of attorney. In this case, a person designates someone to make medical decisions for him or her. Give a copy to the patient's doctor and keep extra copies on hand in case the need for emergency treatment or hospitalization comes up. The patient should also have a will.
Take care of yourself. Ear well, get enough rest and exercise, and pursue activities that bring you pleasure. If it's too hard to find the rime, consider getting extra help with some household chores.