As we grow old, our body and brain starts to change. While physical features are among the first changes we notice, it’s natural to start to feel ourselves slowing down in general: not being as alert and active with our physical or mental senses. Among the many signs of aging, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the most common form of dementia among older adults, has become a heartbreaking disease that millions throughout the country are suffering from.
Despite Alzheimer’s officially being termed a disease since 1901, it seems to have had a major impact on elderly people in more recent years. AD typically starts around the age of 60, with the risk going up as one gets older. Since 2000, death due to the Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 89%, also killing more than breast and prostate cancer combined. In fact, the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. To date, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, with the numbers looking to reach as much as 16 million by 2050.
So what can we do to prevent it, or at least make the situation manageable? While there are currently no medicines available to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s, researching and understanding the disease can help. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Alzheimer’s is an age related, non-reversible brain disorder that develops over a period of years. It starts off slowly and first attacks parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. AD can cause people to have trouble remembering things that happened recently, or names of people they know, no matter how close they are to that person or how frequent they see them.
AD will gradually lead to a whole range of behaviour and personality changes, including a decline in cognitive abilities such as decision-making and language skills. In short, Alzheimer’ ultimately leads to a severe loss of mental function making. While each person can suffer or react to the disease differently, it’s common that those with AD end up forgetting those closest to their heart and how to carry out simple, daily tasks.
Taking note of the early symptoms and seeking help as early as possible can help one deal with the situation. Being aware of the symptoms may help you pinpoint the disease earlier so you can take appropriate actions for you or your loved one. Mayo Clinic advices you to keep observe the following symptoms of AD:
- Bad memory that worsens over time including repeating statements and questions over and over, and not realizing that they’ve asked the question before.
- Forgetfulness of conversations, appointments or events with no remembrance of them later.
- Getting lost in familiar places.
- Eventually forgetting the names of family members and everyday objects.
- Having trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations.
- Difficulty to manage finances, checkbooks, or anything that includes numbers.
- Not knowing what to do in a simple situation.
- Difficulty in planning and performing familiar tasks such as cooking a meal, dressing bathing etc.
Other changes in one’s personality and behaviour to look out for include:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Loss of inhibitions.
- Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen.
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there are a few things the National Institute of Aging recommends to help plan one’s future. As soon as one is diagnosed, it’s best to ask for certain contact numbers that specialize in AD. This will allow you or the patient to have a support system ready at anytime if needed. Regular medical check ups are also highly recommended, just as considering to see a specialized memory disorders clinic is something that should be on the list.
Where possible, one should also prepare legally and financially for the foreseeing future. You may need a long term care plan which one may prefer to set up themselves while they are still able to. Other more common ways for one to prepare for their journey with Alzheimer’s is getting help with daily tasks from someone that can be trusted, avoiding being alone, avoiding driving if you aren’t confident or easily get confused, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting as much exercise as possible.
Though Alzheimer’s does have a huge impact on the person suffering and any other members involved, there are plenty of support teams available and various care plans one explore. Despite the disease being a tremendously sad way to watch a loved one go, spending time and taking trips down memory lane often help AD patients remember certain things and people, even if it’s only for a limited amount of time.
For more information on Alzheimer’s, see: