10 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

By at December 19, 2010 | 1:00 pm | Print

10 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

by Lucy Holmes 

 1.    Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of Dementia, which means an older person is confused, has poor memory, and can no longer do things the way they did formerly.

 2.   Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia; 10% of people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s and close to 50% of people over 85 years have it.

3.    Although there currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s, medications can help to slow down the symptoms and help the person function better. (See below).

4.    A diagnosis is based on tests given by a doctor (not 100% certain; the only absolutely sure way to know is if an autopsy after death reveals certain conditions of brain tissue.)

5.    Early symptoms which may indicate a serious problem and suggest testing by a doctor include:

       • Recent memory loss affecting job/task performance

       • Familiar tasks, like making supper, become difficult

       • Trouble finding the right words

       • Frequent confusion and disorientation

       • Inability to think through problems or count silently

       • Frequent loss of belongings

       • Difficulty getting motivated

       • Moodiness, anger, and depression (noticeable change in personality)

 6.    If symptoms occur often and interfere regularly with daily life, it is very important to see a doctor with expertise in the areas of gerontology, aging, and dementia. Blood and urine samples are tested, and the doctor asks questions and performs a complete physical, so as to rule out other causes of dementia.

 7.    Alzheimer’s Disease is not a normal part of aging, nor is it transferable like a cold or caused by contact with aluminum foil. It is a genetically determined disease which kills brains cells and cannot be prevented.

 8.    Treatments that are FDA approved by prescription only include:

       • Cholinesterase Inhibitors such as donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), galantmine (Razadyne®), and rarely, tacrine (Cognex®)

       • Neurotransmitter Medications such memantine (Namenda®), the newest medication for mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s Disease.

       Other treatments include Vitamin E, anti-inflamatories (Vioxx® and Celebrex®), hormones (estrogen), and Ginko Biloba

 9.    Alzheimer’s generally has three stages – early (up to 4 years), middle, and late – but everyone goes through them differently. Strengths that remain in early stages include the ability to use senses (taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell) for enjoyment, some physical abilities, the ability to discuss what’s happening and provide insight, and the ability to do volunteer work at an appropriate place.

 10.    Caregivers, family members, and friends can help by being understanding and offering support in times of frustration. They can organize and simplify daily routines (one-step-a-time method), encourage independence, provide rest and reassurance, and be flexible (live in the moment). For more info contact the Alzheimer’s Association

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