Part Two Of Caring For Alzheimer’s Disease: An Irreversible Brain Disorder – Senior Care Houston
Early Signs and Symptoms
With aging comes a certain level of forgetfulness. Annoying as it may be, it is somewhat expected. However, the memory loss associated with and usually the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is markedly different. Memory loss is usually used as a symptom of Alzheimer’s in cases where it is serious enough to significantly disrupt one’s daily life. For instance, if a person keeps asking for the same details over and over again, say details of a meeting at work, the memory loss can be considered as an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it is common for people exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s to have trouble tracking their bills, following familiar recipes, and generally completing multistep tasks which were and in many regards still are part of their daily routine. Another early sign of Alzheimer’s is the individual exhibiting poor judgment, for instance, giving a large sum of money in unjustifiable situations. Scientific research has identified mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as a prelude of harbinger dementia. The condition is characterized by some memory loss. However, the loss of memory does not have a significant impact on the individual’s daily life. That being said, it is important to note that men and women who exhibit MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia. However, it is not always clear-cut that MCI will lead to Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, individuals get their cognitive capabilities and abilities back or at the very least they do not suffer Alzheimer’s later on.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease
Typically, a skilled and experienced Alzheimer’s specialized doctor can diagnose the disease correctly about 90% of the cases brought them. This is because they use a thorough and multifaceted test that focuses on identifying the present s Alzheimer’s signs and ruling out other diseases that present the same set of symptoms. For instance, the examination will also include the study and use of in-depth family history. During this study, the doctor will focus on identifying whether there are relatives in the family who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, an indication of susceptibility to the disease. The doctor will examine the physical health of the individual involved to determine their overall health. Thereafter, blood work and urine tests will be conducted to rule out other conditions that exhibit the same variety of signs and symptoms such as Alzheimer’s, such as infections and vitamin deficiencies. Furthermore, a neurological test that exams one’s eye movement, reflexes, and other cognitive functions are conducted to rule out a stroke. This is followed by a mood assessment, which is conducted to determine whether the signs and symptoms are caused by depression and other mental health-related issues. The specialist doctor will conduct further tests to determine the cognitive skills of the individual in question. For instance, they will administer quizzes that involve remembering short words and simple calculations. Finally, the tests are concluded with a brain scan. This is used to determine that there are no tumors or other abnormalities that can cause the signs and symptoms.
The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
For the most part, it is typical for Alzheimer’s to start its development years and sometimes decades before the first sign and or symptom appears. This is due to the fact that the toxic changes that occur in the brain and lead to the destruction of the neurons typically occur slowly. Upon the first sign and symptom manifests itself, the disease typically progresses through 3 different stages: the mild (early) stage, moderate (middle) stage, and the severe (late) stage. At the mild Alzheimer’s stage, individuals are capable of living fairly independently. However, they start to experience short-term memory failure. This is characterized by having difficulty retaining new information just learned. For instance, they may forget the name of a person that they have just met or they find it hard to recall information that they have just been told or read.
At the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, the person might find it difficult recognizing friends and family. They also find difficult to deal with new situations. Additionally, such individuals become more anxious, angry, agitated, and even prone to wandering. This is the longest stage of the disease. At the server stage, the individual becomes fully reliant on caregivers for everything including bathing, eating, and even relieving themselves. Furthermore, the person becomes bedridden and wheelchair-bound, as walking becomes next to impossible. The typical lifespan for some diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 4 to 8 years. However, there are some individuals who have been noted to live as long as 20 more years after diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment
Alzheimer’s has no cure as of yet. In fact, it the only top 10 killer disease in the U.S. to have no cure. However, there are treatments that are used to slow down the cognitive decline and deterioration, at least for some time. This provides relief for some of the symptoms such as depression and anxiety. After diagnosis, many doctors will take the non-drug approach first. For instance, they will recommend counseling, group support, and social activities such as a dancing that combines mental, social, and physical engagement. Such activities do have a positive impact. However, as the disease progresses, doctors will prescribe medication. The Food and Drug Administration has approved 5 drugs that can be used to treat the cognitive signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs work to alter the levels of 2 neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in the brain) which are involved in decision making and memory making. Furthermore, doctors may find it necessary to prescribe anti-anxiety and anti-depressants drugs for individuals who are exhibiting mood-like symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease. That being said, there are numerous efforts being made into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. However, progress has been frustrating with numerous drugs failing at the clinical trial stages. Some of the advanced treatment option being studied and developed include immunotherapy drugs, which are designed to leverage the power of the body’s immune system. Prevention: Is It Possible To Lower The Risk Alzheimer’s Disease Occurring? Researchers believe that a healthy diet, physical activities, life-long learning, and social engagement may help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. For instance, by engaging in aerobic exercises that enhance the amount of blood the heart pumps and, therefore, the amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching the brain can help a great deal. Evidence shows that it can help to prevent the formation of amyloid plaques. Scientific research has found that healthy diets can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet that involves consumption of the least amount of processed foods and ample seafood has been found to protect cognitive function. Other diets such as the MIND diet that involves consuming ample berries and green vegetables have also been found to be effective. Social engagement such as being surrounded by close friends and family and taking part in social activities lower the risk of dementia. Finally, individuals who participate in activities or classes that challenge the cognitive capacity and capability also have a lower risk of dementia. The activities have been found to build-up “cognitive reserves” which helps to make up for Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline.
Should you have a loved one that needs the proper attention, or have any questions about care, we at Assisting Hands are here to help; call or contact us immediately to help your loved ones today. Click here to read the first installment of this article.
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