What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
- The most common type of dementia.
- A progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- Can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Although scientists are learning more every day, right now they still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Who has Alzheimer’s Disease?
- In 2014, as many as 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- The symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60 and the risk increases with age.
- Younger people may get Alzheimer’s disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.
What is known about Alzheimer’s Disease?
Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. There probably is not one single cause, but several factors that affect each person differently.
- Age is the best-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Family history—researchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Scientists are finding more evidence that some of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- There is growing evidence that physical, mental, and social activities may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
How do I know if it’s Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of cognitive loss.
According to the National Institute on Aging, in addition to memory problems, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may experience one or more of the following signs:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Decreased or poor judgment.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
If you or someone you know has several or even most of the signs listed above, it does not mean that you or they have Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to consult a health care provider when you or someone you know has concerns about memory loss, thinking skills, or behavioral changes.
- Some causes for symptoms, such as depression and drug interactions, are reversible. However, they can be serious and should be identified and treated by a health care provider as soon as possible.
- Early and accurate diagnosis provides opportunities for you and your family to consider or review financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?
Medical management can improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Treatment addresses several different areas:
- Helping people maintain mental function.
- Managing behavioral symptoms.
- Slowing or delaying the symptoms of the disease.
Support for family and friends
Many people living with Alzheimer’s disease are cared for at home by family members. Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease at home can be a difficult task and might become overwhelming at times.
As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimer’s disease often need more intensive care. If you or a loved one needs caregiving support, SeniorBridge caregivers are here to help. We have expertise in nursing, mental health, geriatric care and medically complex cases, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging,” last accessed August 3, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm