Alzheimer’s Disease – It’s Not Normal Aging

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Click here for an interactive tour of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease has 7 stages but not everyone will experience the same symptoms or progress at the same rate.  According to Mayo Clinic, the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease you may notice are increasing forgetfulness and mild confusion. Over time, the disease has a growing impact on your memory, your ability to speak and write coherently and your judgment and problem solving. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may be the first to notice that you’re having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing your thoughts. However, you may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to your family members, close friends or co-workers.

Many times family will notice slight changes in cognitive and mental abilities that the person may not realize are happening. The family may notice their loved one having a difficult time counting change or remembering how to make a favorite recipe. It’s been said that you can see the difference between “old age” and Alzheimer’s disease: old age forgets where they put there keys, Alzheimer’s disease forgets what the keys are for. 

The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of important points to remember about the disease:

  • Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, even though the greatest known risk factor is increasing age. (The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older). But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
  • Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
  • Alzheimer’s has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with the disease and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or have noticed signs and symptoms according to this information given, please contact your primary doctor to discuss your options and try to delay the progression. If you are a family member caring for a loved one with this disease, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Associations is a wonderful resource!  They provide a 24/7 help line (800.272.3900), access to support groups, connect you with local resources and are always working toward a cure.

 

This blog post was written by the RN Branch Manager of our Little Falls office, Lyssa Mooney.