by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia. Its symptoms can include memory loss, changes in mood and difficulty communicating. Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed in people that are 65 rears or older. As we age, occasional forgetfulness is normal. Alzheimer’s has become so prevalent and so associated to forgetfulness that I have frequently heard people say, “sorry, I had an Alzheimer’s moment,” whenever they forget something. All people loose some memory as they age and although Allzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process, being over 65 years old is the number one common risk factor with the majority of people diagnosed.
There are 3 types of alzheimer’s disease currently known:
1. Early-onset Alzheimer’s- It is a rare form of the disease that occurs before the age of 65yrs. Only 10% of all people diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease are diagnosed with this type. Those at greatest risk for developing this type are people with Downs Syndrome. Because people with downs syndrome age prematurely they are frequently 40-50yrs old when the first symptoms appear.
2. Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common of the 3 forms of Alzheimer’s disease with approximately 90% of all people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease being 65 years or older.
3. Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD). This is an extremely rare form of Alzheimer’s that is entirely inherited and accounts for only 1% of all diagnosed cases. Families affected have members from at least 2 generations diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Onset of symptoms in FAD frequently appear much earlier, often in a person’s 40s.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however early detection can significantly improve the length and quality of life for the patient. There are 10 early warning signs that people with Alzheimer’s experience and the people around them observe.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Difficulty in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing daily tasks at home, work and play.
4. Confusion with time or place.
5. Difficulty reading and judging distances
6. Difficulty following or joining a conversation.
7. Misplacing things and unable to retrace their steps to find them.
8. Decreased ability to make good decisions.
9. Withdrawal from work and social activities.
10.Changes in mood and personality.
The importance of early detection and diagnosis can’s be stressed enough. There are numerous new treatments and drugs available but most are their most effective in the early stages. If you notice any of the 10 warning signs in yourself or someone you know, you should make an appointment with your doctor. The doctor will perform numerous tests including a complete physical exam, with a brain scan, to rule out other causes like cancer of the brain or any tumors. The patients memory and thinking ability also will be assessed by a psychologist.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however there are many new drug treatments available that have the ability to temporarily relieve some symptoms and slow their progress. If diagnosis is made in the early stages of the disease the patient has the ability to participate in the care plan and make their own choices regarding their care. This increases their chances of remaining independent longer and allows them to assist in planning for their future care needs.
All patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease will eventually require total care and supervision. There are numerous support groups available to assist the patient and their families. Your doctor can put you in touch with a local group.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.