Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent form of dementia that is characterized by extensive deterioration of memory, speech, behavior, and thinking faculties (Altman, 2000). The disease has no cure and its symptoms develop gradually over time. In its severe form, it interferes with an individual’s proper execution of daily tasks. It is prevalent among elderly people and accounts for approximately 70 percent of all dementia cases (Budson, & Kowall, 2011).
The disease mainly affects people over the age of 65. In few cases, first symptoms of the disease are observed early. In such cases, the age of onset is between 40 and 50 years. It is difficult to manage Alzheimer’s because it a progressive disease. For instance, during its onset, memory loss is mild. However, as it progresses, individuals lose the ability to recall any information and experience difficulties speaking fluently.
Age of onset
As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s affects individuals in their retirement age, usually past the age of 65 (Altman, 2000). However, in rare cases, the disease’s symptoms are observed in individuals between the ages of 40 and 50. The greatest risk factor is age. Therefore, older individuals are at a higher risk of succumbing to the disease. Symptoms appear in during early ages and intensify as individual’s age.
10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease
The most common warning signs of the disease include memory loss that interferes with an individual’s daily life, difficulties in planning and solving problems, difficulty executing daily tasks and chores, and confusion (Budson, & Kowall, 2011). Victims experience difficulty comprehending images, speaking, and making decisions. In addition, patients withdraw from social situations, experience drastic mood and personality changes, become irritable, and exhibit aggressive tendencies (Altman, 2000).
Victims forget easily and therefore, use memory aids such as notebooks to record important information such as dates and time. Confusion is characterized by inability to follow plans.For instance, patient might be unable to keep consistent records of their monthly bills.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Therefore, it progresses in stages that include early stage, middle stage, and advanced stage. During the early stage, individuals are often absent-minded and forget appointments often. There are few cases of confusion and slight changes in behavior and personality (Budson, & Kowall, 2011).
Middle stage is characterized by speech impairment, increased cases of confusion, difficulty recalling important information, and difficulty carrying on conversations (Altman, 2000). The symptoms of the middle stage are more severe compared to those of the early stage. There is progressive deterioration of cognitive functions that interferes with an individual’s ability to execute daily tasks effectively.
During this stage, speech impairment and deterioration of reading and writing capabilities are evident due to poor motor coordination (Altman, 2000). The advanced stage is characterized by aggressiveness, high irritability, loss of self-awareness, and paranoia (Shankle, & Amen, 2005). During the advanced stage, individuals are wholly dependent on caregivers for execution of daily tasks. They cannot perform even the simplest tasks such as dressing, drinking, and eating.
There is little comprehension of language, which makes communication difficult. Victims usually utter single words or phrases. This stage is so severe that many individuals become bed ridden due to their inability to move (Altman, 2000). Death usually results from an external infection that weakens body immunity. The disease does not cause death of itself.
Alzheimer’s disease has several risk factors. They include age, heredity, family history, and past incidences head trauma (Budson, & Kowall, 2011). The older an individual is, the higher the risk of developing the disease. This is why many cases are reported among people over the age of 65. Individuals with parents or relatives suffering from the disease are at high risk (Shankle, & Amen, 2005).
The risk is even higher if there are several people in the family with the disease. Risk genes and deterministic genes are the main causes of risk with regard to heredity (Shankle, & Amen, 2005). Research has revealed that Alzheimer’s genes are found in the aforementioned classes of genes. Head trauma that induces loss of awareness exposes victims to high risk of developing Alzheimer’s (Shankle, & Amen, 2005).
The criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s include a thorough study of symptoms, physical examination, neurological examination, and miscellaneous tests (Gauthier, 2006). The criteria aim to find severe cognitive impairments that interfere with an individual’s proper functioning.
The cognitive impairments are then confirmed using neuropsychological testing. A definitive diagnosis includes other tests such as brain scans and microscopic examination of brain tissue (Gauthier, 2006). Diagnosis is completed after impairment of faculties that deal with language, problem solving, attention, orientation, memory, and functional abilities are confirmed in a patient (Gauthier, 2006).
Alzheimer’s disease lacks a definite cure. However, pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions are used. Pharmacological interventions that are commonly used include Donepezil, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex, and Memantine (Gauthier, 2006). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to reduce the risk of developing the disease significantly (Budson, & Kowall, 2011). Non-pharmacological interventions used include validation therapy, psychotherapy, and reminiscence therapy.
Reminiscence therapy aids in the stabilization of mood and improvement of cognition (Gauthier, 2006). It involves helping patients remember certain experiences in their lives through the use of photographs and other materials. Validation therapy involves helping patients come to terms with their situation while sensory integration uses certain exercises in order to stimulate different body senses.
Other considerations in the management of Alzheimer’s
Research has shown that physical activity helps to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Change of lifestyle and diet are also important considerations (Gauthier, 2006). For instance, people who engage in activities such as reading, social interaction and playing musical instruments show reduced risks of developing the disease.
Foods rich in flavonoids decrease the risk of developing the disease while foods rich in saturated fats increase the risk (Shankle, & Amen, 2005). The Dementia-Compromised Behavior theory (C-NDB) holds that people with the disease are unable to say what they need (Shankle, & Amen, 2005).
Therefore, failure by caregivers to meet their needs induces other behaviors that contribute towards the disease’s progression. On the other hand, the Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold theory holds that the disease results in poor responses to stimuli (Shankle, & Amen, 2005). This leads to more stress and increased vulnerability to antisocial behaviors such as aggression and irritability.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Symptoms include extensive deterioration of memory, speech, behavior, and thinking faculties. The disease has no cure and its symptoms develop gradually over time. In its severe form, it interferes with the proper execution of daily tasks. Diagnosis criteria include through study of symptom, physical examination, and neuropsychological examination.
Microscopic examination of certain brain tissues is done of definitive diagnosis. Treatment involves both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.. Pharmacological interventions that are commonly used include Donepezil, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex, and Memantine. On the other hand, Non-pharmacological interventions used include validation therapy, psychotherapy, and reminiscence therapy. Change of lifestyle and diet are also important considerations in managing the disease.
Altman, L. J. (2000). Alzheimer’s Disease. New York: Lucent Books.
Budson, A. E., & Kowall, N. W. (2011). The Handbook of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Gauthier, S. (2006). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease. New York: CRC Press.
Shankle, W. R., & Amen, D. G. (2005). Preventing Alzheimer’s: Ways to Help Prevent, Delay, Detect, and Even Halt Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Memory Loss. New York: Penguin.