According to Jalbert, Daiello and Lapane (2008) the Alzheimer disease, also referred as Dementia of Alzheimer type (DAT) is a deadly neurodegenerative condition that is progressive in nature. The disease causes relapse in memory and cognition ability. As the disease progresses, it impairs the ability of a person to undertake the daily chores as it damages the neuropsychiatric and behavioral systems. Apparently, the disease was discovered by doctor named Alzheimer in early 1900s.
The doctor realized that the brain of one of the patients had a shrunk cortex, a condition that is only caused by dead brain cells. The cortex is the brain region concerned with language, memory and judgment. In this context, the brain of a dementia patient has two unusual deposits.
In the case of dementia, the outside part of the brain cells has plaques or protein fragments also referred as beta amyloid. Beta amyloids are responsible for deterring passage of signals between brain cells and eventually impair the synapses. Inside the brain cells, there are neurofibrillary tangles.
The tangles prevent the normal transportation of energy and food within the brain cell. Eventually, the tangles destroy the brain cells. Consequently, the brain shrinks since many cells die as confirmed through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In such a scenario, a patient loses memory and cognitive ability since the synapses will not pass to the cortex and damaged brain cells.
Age of onset
Alzheimer disease is prevalent among people aged over 65 years. In fact, 5-15% of people with 65 years and above suffer from Alzheimer (Greenamyre, Penney, D’Amato & Young, 1987). The disease is known of affecting people of all ages. Sometimes, the disease can be genetically transferred.
Therefore, Alzheimer disease can be said to have three age onsets. The first one is the early onset Alzheimer. This form is quite rare, and it is concerned with people below the age of 65 years. In most cases, people aged 40 to 50 years and suffering from the Down syndrome ail from DAT.
In addition, young adults who suffer from brain abnormalities are vulnerable to DAT. The most common form of DAT is the late-onset. The late-onset form of Alzheimer accounts for 90% of all cases of DAT. In addition, this form of DAT commonly occurs to people aged 65 years. At least, 50% of people aged 85 years acquire this form of DAT. The third age onset is familiar and is inherited. In addition, this form of DAT affects a minimum of two generations in the families.
10 Warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease
There are several symptoms of Alzheimer disease that can be checked using the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The signs will be divided into two stages as follows:
Early signs of Alzheimer disease
Lapses in memory even for recent conversations.
- Difficulties in finding rightful words for objects that are used daily and people’s names.
- Depression and apathy
- Inability to process answers as well as questions
- Taking time when undertake routine duties
Late symptoms of Alzheimer disease
- Impaired communication.
- Deterioration of skills.
- Looking quite confused.
- Unusual behavioral changes.
- Difficulties in swallowing, walking and talking.
Stages of Alzheimer disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association (2014), there are seven stages of DAT. The first one is referred as the no-impairment stage. At this stage, a person is free of any memory problem. In fact, a medical examination by a physician does not detect any symptoms of the disease especially the memory loss.
The second stage is referred as mild cognitive decrement. At this stage, a person visits a medical practitioner claiming episodes of memory loss. However, the practitioner notices no symptoms of dementia. In this context, the patient’s behavior could be normal or an early symptom of the disease.
The third stage is the Mild cognitive decrement. In this the stage, other people start noticing that a person is experiencing memory difficulties. In this stage, the medical practitioner easily can notice the symptoms. It may be diagnosable in some people at this stage while it is difficult to notice the same in others.
The forth one is the moderate cognitive decrement stage. At this stage, visible symptoms such as forgetting recent events are noticeable. The medical practitioner will detect DAT without any difficulties. Then, severe cognitive decrement sets in as the sixth stage. In the sixth stage, the patient experiences memory loss and change of personality.
In most cases, the patient may require help when executing daily activities. Finally, the last stage of Alzheimer is referred as severe cognitive decrement. In the last stage, individuals cannot do anything for themselves and engaging in a conversation is a problem. The patients cannot go to the bathroom, eat or swallow on their own.
Risk factors of Alzheimer disease
Alzheimer disease affects both old and young adults. However, some people are more susceptible to the disease than others. The susceptibility could be due generic, lifestyle or any other factor. In familial DAT, the apolipoprotein e4 (APOE E4) gene mutates and passed down the family generations.
Sex is a risk factor in determining the probability of acquiring the Alzheimer disease. In this context, women are more likely to suffer from DAT than men. Victims of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or a previous head trauma are more susceptible to DAT. From a medical perspective, head trauma is a major cause of memory loss. Lifestyle behavior such as smoking and lack of physical exercises increases the risk of acquiring Alzheimer.
Diagnostic Criteria/Nursing Assessments
In 1984, an effective diagnostic procedure for the Alzheimer disease was established. (Jack Jr. et al., 2011). According to Jack Jr. et al. (2011), the procedure was established by the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS).
The Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders Association (ADRDA) also played a role in establishing diagnostic procedures for the Alzheimer disease (Jack Jr. et al., 2011). The diagnostic procedure is based on three stages that include the field of dementia, mild cognitive and preclinical.
Interventions (pharmacological and non-pharmacological)
From a pharmacological perspective, Alzheimer’s treatment is still unknown. Nonetheless, there exist medicines that can either improve symptoms or curtail the progression of the disease. For instance, Alzheimer is controlled by using drugs such as rivastigmine, galantamine and donepezil. In addition, non-pharmacological interventions for Alzheimer include massage, aromatherapy, white noise, music therapy and bright light therapy.
It has been established that social and mental-stimulating activities are critical in reducing risks associated with the Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it is recommendable to engage in formal education and leisure activities. People suffering from the Alzheimer disease are advised to engage in social interactions that act as the support systems (Mayo Clinic, 2014).
Alzheimer’s Association. (2014). Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s.
Greenamyre, J., T. Penney, J., B., D’Amato, C.J. & Young, A.B. (1987). Dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type: Changes in Hippocampal L-[ 3H]Glutamate Binding. Journal of Neurochemistry, 48(2), 543-551
Jack Jr., C.R., Albert, M.S., Knopman, D.S., Mckhan, G.M., Sperling, R.A., Carrillo, M.C.,…Phelps, C. H. (2011). Introduction to the recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 7(3), 257-262.
Jalbert, J., J., Daiello, L., A. & Lapane, K., L. (2008). Dementia of the Alzheimer Type. Epidemiologic Reviews, 30, 15-34
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Diseases and Conditions: Alzheimer’s disease.