Alzheimer’s 101

Alzheimer's introductionIf you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you probably have a lot of questions. This article is intended to address some of the most basic facts and get you started in the learning process.

Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, is a problem with the brain and affects a patient’s behavior, thought processes, and memory. The symptoms are fairly minor to start, and then gradually get worse to the point where they drastically affect the individual’s everyday life and they need other people to help them complete even basic functions.

There are several million people in the US who have Alzheimer’s disease. It usually starts sometime after 65 years of age, and becomes more likely the older a person gets. Among those people older than 85, some estimate that half have Alzheimer’s.

One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease is problems with thinking skills, especially memory, and behavior alterations. The person may be moody, restless, or confused. They may display uncharacteristically poor judgment or have trouble processing visual information. They may also experience difficulties communicating and using language. Alzheimer’s can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can easily seem like the normal effects of aging. The disease is frequently ignored in the early stages.

How can you know the difference? When you see the doctor for a diagnosis, he or she will run a variety of tests designed to measure cognitive functioning and behavior. The only way anyone can know for sure that a person has Alzheimer’s, though, is to see if there is plaque in their brain tissue. This usually isn’t possible until after the patient has passed away and an autopsy is performed.

The disease may take anywhere from around 5 to 20 years to run its course. Because it damages the brain, it can cause a person to have trouble with basic physical functions such as swallowing, which can in turn lead to death. Alzheimer’s patients are also more likely to get an infection.

As of yet, no cure has been found for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments available that can lessen some of the negative effects of the disease on patients and caregivers, as well as slow its progression.

To learn more about this disease, see the articles below:

How to Choose a Memory Care Facility
When Your Parent Forgets Who You Are
Three Big Questions to Consider After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis