©2019 by Eleanor Jacob.

Ducks Over the Lake

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

 

ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, a disease that attacks the brain.


It causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior, and worsens over time.


Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up 60 to 80% of all cases.  


The biggest risk factor is old age, although it is not a normal part of aging.  


Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but scientists continue to conduct research to find a successful treatment.

 

SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER'S

Those with Alzheimer’s disease have varying symptoms, depending on the case.  
Symptoms usually become visible while the person is in their mid-sixties.

​Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty remembering newly-learned information

  • Having to repeatedly ask for information

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems

  • Disorientation and misplacing objects

  • Mood and personality changes

  • Withdrawal from social activities

  • Confusion about events, time, and place

  • Suspicion about friends, family, and caregivers

  • Memory loss

  • Poor judgement

  • Problems with speaking, talking, and walking

  • Vision problems

  • Spatial issues

  • Hallucinations and delusions

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Difficulty sleeping

Alzheimer's is known to cause large changes in personality and affect relationships with others. It is common for those with the disease to act completely differently from the way they would have before. For example, someone who was previously family-oriented may lose interest in meeting with relatives, or someone who was once extremely courteous may frequently make rude remarks. This could place a strain on their social life, as they may withdraw from interacting with others completely. It has also been shown that those diagnosed eventually completely lose interest in socializing with others. However, it goes both ways. It is also common for people to feel uncomfortable around those with Alzheimer's, because they don't entirely understand the disease and how it works. Even so, it is important to maintain patience and sympathy, since these changes are beyond their control.

 

STAGES OF ALZHEIMER'S

Mild Alzheimer’s Disease:

During this stage, the person and their family begin to see that something is wrong.


Effects include:

  • Memory loss

  • Poor judgement

  • Getting lost frequently

  • Repeating questions

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease:

At this point, more care and supervision becomes necessary.


Effects include:

  • Problems with reading and writing

  • Increased memory loss

  • Shortened attention span

  • Difficulty carrying out tasks

  • Increased agitation, anxiety, etc.

Severe Alzheimer’s Disease:

During this final stage, those diagnosed become completely dependent on others and unable to function normally.

Effects include:

  • Inability to communicate

  • Seizures

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Increased sleeping

  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

 

TREATMENT

Currently, no cure exists for Alzheimer’s disease.  However, scientists have received large grants in recent years and continue to conduct research in hopes of slowing or curing it.

In addition, there are treatments available to slow the effects of Alzheimer’s, most of which work most effectively during the mild and moderate stages.  Other treatments, such as putting a constant routine in place, may help to maintain behavioral traits.  Possible treatments are listed below, although symptoms may be treated in a variety of ways.

Medication:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors are a drug that improves communication between brain cells that is worsened by Alzheimer’s and decrease the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical that is important for memory and thinking. Cholinesterase inhibitors may also reduce depression and anxiety (both effects of Alzheimer’s).

  • Memantine is a drug that decreases cognitive symptoms such as confusion and memory loss so that the patient can continue some basic functions for a longer period of time than they could without the medication.

  • Some antidepressants are used to reduce the behavioral effects of Alzheimer’s.  

  • Anxiolytics may be used to treat anxiety and restlessness.

  • Antipsychotic medications help to reduce hallucinations, delusions, aggression, hostility, etc.

All medication should be used only when deemed safe by a doctor, since they often have dangerous side effects.

Non-medication:

  • Stick to a certain pattern or routine as much as possible.

  • Write down a daily or weekly schedule to make details less confusing.

  • Make sure the diagnosed person gets enough exercise and eats regularly.

  • Attempt to maintain a calm environment and avoid being confrontational.

 
Holding Hands

SUPPORT FOR THOSE AFFECTED

ALZ Connected offers a forum for both those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their family members to discuss with others about what they’re going through and get advice.  

Alzheimer’s Navigator helps caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s by allowing them to make a plan for doctor’s appointments, financial issues, care options, legal issues, and more.  


Resources such as the helpline at 1.800.272.3900 provide 24/7 service, help, and guidance when needed.  


Government programs such as Alzheimer’s Disease Supportive Services Program (ADSSP) facilitate support for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

NIA Alzheimer's and Related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center offers research about Alzheimer's disease for caregivers as well as updated information about clinical trials and recent medical discoveries.

 

MY STORY

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, when he was 69.  It took doctors a long time to figure out what the specific disease was, since similar symptoms may apply to several diseases.  Over the years, I have seen him lose not only his memory and the ability to take care of himself, but also his personality.  I’m told that before he had the disease, he was a kind, patient, and caring person. However, I have very little memory of that man.  


I have also seen the impact that Alzheimer’s has had on my father and grandmother, among other family members.  My father has essentially lost someone who has been there his entire life, and my grandmother has to watch the person whom she loves deteriorate into a different man.  


Because of all of this, I was inspired to create this website.  It was important to me to educate others about the impact of the disease and how to help those affected, because I have seen firsthand the effects.  Thank you for taking the time to view this website, and I hope that you are able to help someone with the information found here.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ALZ Connected. www.alzconnected.org.

Alzheimer's Association. www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers.

Belluck, Pam. "What Is Alzheimer's Disease?" The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/science/what-is-alzheimers-disease.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm.

Genova, Lisa. Still Alice. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350453.

MedlinePlus. medlineplus.gov/alzheimersdisease.html.

National Institute of Health. www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-alzheimers-disease. Accessed 16 May 2017.

National Institute of Health. www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-alzheimers-disease.

Verywell Health. www.verywellhealth.com/personality-changes-in-alzheimers-97989.