If you’re like most people, you aren’t eager to spend time thinking about what would happen if you became unable to direct your own medical care because of illness, an accident, or advanced age. However, if you don’t do at least a little bit of planning — writing down your wishes about the kinds of […]
It is a well-known fact that a high percentage of the elderly experience mental degradation at some stage during the later years of their lives. It is acknowledged as one of the disadvantages of getting old! However, the majority of people do not know the first thing about mental health illnesses and diseases that can take hold of the elderly mind, although some will have heard various names of afflictions being bandied about. Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most widely recognized, but very little is actually known about it by individuals who have not come into contact with people suffering from it. This article will explain in layman’s terms exactly what Alzheimer’s is as well as what it can do.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia in the world. Dementia affects the brain and impedes a person’s ability to think logically from moment to moment. Sufferers often have short-term memory loss and get frustrated when they cannot remember what happened just minutes ago. It seriously impedes a person’s ability to speak and reason, and makes it nigh on impossible to learn something new. As the disease progresses, sufferers are rendered unable to look after themselves physically and often become unsafe in their own homes.
Alzheimer’s Disease causes degeneration of the connections between the brain and local nerve cells, which in turn affects other nerve cells around the body. As a result, the messages that the brain sends to the rest of the body do not get relayed properly and communication breaks down, hence the confusion of the individual and a loss of mental capacity.
Over 4 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States alone. Very few people under the age of 65 are affected, and only 5% of men aged between 65 and 74 are affected. However, it is estimated that almost half of all people aged 75 and above have some form of dementia, with the majority suffering from Alzheimer’s. It affects both men and women in equal measures. Although the cause of Alzheimer’s is not known, age is a confirmed factor. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will develop the disease. It is also believed to be genetic. If a mother or father has Alzheimer’s, the children are more likely to develop it in old age than individuals of a similar age that do not have a family history of it.
Alzheimer’s is often hard to detect during its early stages because its symptoms are no different than those experienced by seniors who do not develop the disease. Mild confusion and forgetfulness can be dismissed as one of the symptoms of old age but can also mark the onset of Alzheimer’s. The forgetfulness will gradually get worse, until it begins to alter daily routines and reminders have to be written down or verbally delivered by others. The next step is an acute inability to do anything without help or supervision and can ultimately render the sufferer helpless. Even if the body is willing and in good shape, the mind is not.
Aggression is a common symptom of advanced Alzheimer’s Disease because an individual is no longer his or herself. The confusion and anxiety that the disease leaves them with 24 hours a day may result in verbal or violent outbursts that the sufferer has no control over. Alzheimer’s sufferers often turn into a completely different person as the disease progresses into its later stages and thus it is often not a true reflection of who that person was earlier in his or her life. It can take between three and fifteen years for a person to get to this stage though, but it will ultimately result in the loss of life unless other factors intervene.
Unfortunately there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Various foundations and medical centers are conducting ongoing research in the hope of finding a cure but for now there are only drugs that can be used to offset the symptoms in the early to mid stages of the disease. Aricept and Exelon are just two of the drugs used, but they will only hold degeneration at bay for a limited time. When they stop working, the disease will progress, as it would have done if the drugs were not used in the first place. Ultimately, the end result is the same. It is a disease to cope with, not cure.