Updated: Aug 27
Dementia is a degenerative condition that causes a decline in mental ability, often leading to disability and dependency. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 5.8 million people in the United States alone. For those affected by Alzheimer's, it can be a frightening and confusing illness. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with the challenges of Alzheimer's Disease and find support. In this blog article, we'll explore what Alzheimer's Disease is, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatments, causes and risk factors, coping strategies, and resources for support.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that affects the brain and impairs its ability to reason, remember, and communicate. It is the most common form of dementia, a broad term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented or cured.
The disease is named after German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, who first identified it in 1906. It is classified into three stages: early, middle, and late. Early stage Alzheimer's is characterized by mild memory loss and confusion; middle stage is marked by increasing memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with basic activities; and late stage is marked by severe memory loss and physical disability.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
The most common symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with communication, difficulty with daily tasks, changes in behaviour, and difficulty with problem solving. Memory loss is usually the first symptom of Alzheimer's, and is characterized by forgetting recently learned information or repeating the same questions. Confusion and difficulty with communication can lead to trouble finding the right words, difficulty following conversations, and difficulty remembering names.
Changes in behaviour are also common. Patients may become withdrawn, suspicious, or paranoid. They may also become disoriented in familiar places, wander away from home, or display inappropriate behaviour in public. In addition, problem solving can become difficult, leading to difficulty making decisions or managing finances.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer's Disease is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical exams, medical history, neurological tests, and psychological evaluations. After diagnosis, a treatment plan can be created to manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment typically involves medication and lifestyle changes. Medication is used to manage symptoms, slow the progression, and improve quality of life. Commonly prescribed medications include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and social activities can help maintain cognitive health and improve quality of life.
Causes and Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease
The exact cause of Alzheimer's is unknown, but scientists believe it is likely a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The most established risk factor is age, with most cases occurring in people age 65 and older. Other risk factors include family history, head injury, cardiovascular health, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, and exercise.
Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease
Coping with Alzheimer's Disease can be difficult, but there are ways to manage the challenges. The most important thing is to maintain an open dialogue with your doctor and family members to ensure you are getting the best care possible. It's also important to stay active and engaged. This can be done through social activities, exercise, and cognitive stimulation. Additionally, it's important to find ways to manage stress, as stress can exacerbate symptoms.
Support Groups for Caregivers and Patients
Support groups can be a great way to connect with others who understand what you're going through. These groups provide valuable emotional and practical support to both caregivers and patients. Caregivers can access support groups specifically for carers, while patients can access support groups for people with Alzheimer's Disease. Additionally, there are online support networks for those who can't attend in-person meetings.
Medical Resources for Alzheimer’s Disease
There are many medical resources available for those affected by Alzheimer's Disease. The Alzheimer's Association provides information about the latest treatments and clinical trials, as well as resources for caregivers and patients. The National Institute on Aging provides valuable information about Alzheimer's Disease, including support and research. Additionally, there are many local organizations and support groups that can provide practical resources and emotional support.
Alternative Medicine for Alzheimer’s Disease
Alternative medicine is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. There is some evidence that certain vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies may help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's. However, it's important to talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatments.
Clinical Trials and Research
Clinical trials are an important part of finding new treatments and cures for Alzheimer's Disease. Many organisations are involved in researching the causes and treatments of Alzheimer's Disease, including the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer's Association, and the National Institute on Ageing. Additionally, there are many clinical trials that are seeking volunteers to participate in research studies.
Alzheimer's Disease is a devastating condition that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are many ways to cope with the challenges of the disease, including finding support. By understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments, as well as the causes and risk factors, those affected can take steps to manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Additionally, there are many medical and alternative resources available, as well as clinical trials and research studies to participate in. Carers, take the first step to a healthier life – book your free 30 minute get-to-know or join our support group.
Alzheimer's Disease can be a difficult and confusing illness, but with the right support and resources, those affected can find hope and relief. By understanding the condition and seeking out support, those with Alzheimer's Disease can live their best life.