Alzheimer’s disease: is a neurological disease of the brain – a type of irreversible dementia that is progressive and degenerative. Presently, there is no known definitive cause of Alzheimer’s disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time, though medical research is making progress in finding ways to minimize the disease’s effects. As with other types of progressive dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s ability to think, reason, remember, and function physically over time. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease affects over five million Americans. It is estimated that there will be more than three times as many people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease by mid-21st century.
Initially, a person may experience difficulty handling their checkbook or doing a previously familiar task, like a cooking recipe. The person may have difficulty with recalling a word or a name that is very familiar to them. Sometimes, the person has difficulty expressing oneself or may use common words incorrectly or may repeatedly ask the same questions. Increasing forgetfulness, such as, missing appointments or misplacing personal belongings, may be due to something more than life stress and lack of concentration. Changes in mood and behavior may be present during the onset of the disease. When the person’s usual personality shows signs of increased irritability, suspiciousness, or a growing lack of interest in life events; the potential development of Alzheimer’s disease becomes a real possibility.
Since the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is typically a slow and gradual course, it is not uncommon for the person with Alzheimer’s disease to not be diagnosed for months and even years later. The person may be able to mask or compensate for these initial mishaps or limitations and, as a result, be able to avoid being noticed by family or friends that a problem exists.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of the normal aging process. It requires medical assessment and treatment. Family members, who suspect a problem with a loved one’s thinking, memory, or behavior, must take the courageous step to pursue a comprehensive evaluation of the signs and symptoms that are seen. Occasionally, a person with early stage Alzheimer’s disease may personally seek an evaluation on their own to help them understand what is happening to them. With a thorough assessment, treatable conditions, such as depression, can be accurately identified and treated. Persons with Alzheimer’s disease are sometimes diagnosed with depression or another medical condition that can be medically managed and improve the person’s quality of life.
Understanding Alzheimer’s disease requires the willingness of family and friends to observe and respond to the gradual changes that are hallmarks of the disease. Responding to these changes in the person’s functioning will help the person to maintain their capacity to cope emotionally through the genuine support of loved ones and the caregiver services from our Alzheimer’s Support Network.