Alzheimer's Disease and Aging

Alzheimer's Disease and Aging

Nursing Home & Elderly Care

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

In simple terms, Alzheimer's Disease is the death of the mind before the body. Victims of the Alzheimer's Disease often suffer from a lack of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which promotes brain activity. Alzheimer's Disease is typically diagnosed around the age of 75, with symptoms appearing approximately three years prior to the initial diagnosis. Alzheimer's Disease causes a person to lose their perceptions of reality until they become incoherent. This loss of perception is sometimes referred to as Dementia.

The Impact of Alzheimer's Disease

The emotional impact and economic burdens of Alzheimer's Disease can be staggering. You can call your local Alzheimer's Association for counseling regarding options for care. Please visit our Resources section for more web sites that contain information on Alzheimer's Disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, four million people are affected with Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's statistics show the number of victims of Alzheimer's Disease is expected to reach 14 million by 2050. Of the people affected with Alzheimer's, approximately 47 percent are 85 years old or older. This condition rarely appears in people under age 60.

Among elders, Alzheimer's Disease is the fourth leading cause of death following heart disease, cancer and stroke. Because they typically live longer, more women than men are affected by Alzheimer's.

The Effects of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's results in an increase in cognitive losses, causing particular problems with losses in short-term memory. The behavior problems that go along with the disease can disturb and frighten the victim and the caregiver: anxiety, agitation, aggression, depression, delusions, hallucinations, wandering, incontinence, offensive sexual behaviors, sleep disturbances, and hoarding/hiding personal items.

Alzheimer's and Dementia

A symptom of Alzheimer's is dementia: a loss of mental abilities that cannot be diagnosed as psychosis, major depression, or other medical condition. However, just because a person exhibits symptoms of dementia, that does not mean they are insane. The word "dementia" comes from two Latin terms meaning "away" and "mind". Many types of illnesses are associated with dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease, Multi-Infarct Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Pick's Disease and Supranuclear Palsy.

Symptoms of Dementia

* Aphasia - problems with speech and language
* Apraxia - inability to perform certain motor functions even though the body parts still work
(example: A person can walk but cannot walk up steps.)
* Agnosia - cannot identify objects even though there is no sensory impairment
(example: A person may be holding a set of car keys, but they cannot identify them.)
* Cannot Execute - inability to plan, organize, exhibit abstract thinking or perform sequence activities (example: A person cannot brush their teeth.)

Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

1. Memory loss that affects job skills.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
3. Problems with language.
4. Disorientation of time and place.
5. Poor or decreased judgment.
6. Misplacing things.
7. Problems with abstract thinking.
8. Changes in mood or behavior.
9. Changes in personality.
10. Loss of initiative.

Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

FDA approved drugs for treatment of Alzheimer's Disease:

* Cognex (tacrine)
* Airicept (donepezil HCL)

Side effects of Alzheimer's drugs may include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, insomnia, fatigue, anorexia, abdominal pain and skin rash.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's Disease, these drugs have been shown to improve such symptoms as memory loss in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease individuals. The medicine helps increase a brain chemical that is necessary for better functioning. (Much like a car that needs a certain level of oil to run well over time, the brain needs certain chemicals to process information.)

Alternate Alzheimer's Treatments

* Vitamin E
* Estrogen
* Deprenyl (an anti-Parkinson's drug)
* NSAIDS (like aspirin or Motrin)
* Rigid control of systolic blood pressure over 140 (the top number) with medicine

Detection of Alzheimer's

Early detection of Alzheimer's Disease is a good way to control and slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms: a mini mental status exam is a good validated test that tracks any mental decline. This is an important screening test that your doctor can do quickly during a regular office visit. These tests are important for detection of Alzheimer's.

Nursing home lawyer Jeff Rasansky is licensed to practice before all state courts in Texas, the United States District Courts in the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the Fifth United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

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