Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of the brain resulting in memory loss, especially for new and recent memories, cognitive degeneration, and problem behavioral responses.
Learn More About Alzheimer’s
This disease starts off mild and gets progressively worse over time until the individual has difficulty performing daily activities. Despite this, research has provided information leading to better treatments to help individuals with this disorder maintain their memory and related cognitive functioning for longer than was previously possible.
Alzheimer’s disease is not considered to be a normal part of getting older. However the most well established risk factor for developing this type of dementia is increasing age, with the majority of individuals currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease being over the age of 64. Despite this, younger people also get the disease, albeit at much lower rates. However, as many as 5% of the individuals who develop this condition are in their 40’s and 50’s. When the illness occurs within this age range it is referred to as early-onset or younger-onset.
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that worsens over time. The illness advances in a continuous manner with dementia symptoms slowly getting worse. This is different from vascular dementia, which tends to progress in a step-like manner, with symptoms remaining stable for a period of time before notably worsening, then stabilizing again.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, memory loss is generally mild and may be mistaken for normal forgetfulness, but in the late stages of the disease people often are unable to converse with others. In the latest stages they may be unable to respond to their environment at all.
At Park Royal, we understand how devastating it can be for an individual and their family members when this diagnosis is made. Although Alzheimer’s disease currently has no known cure, more effective treatments have been developed for the symptoms. While current interventions can’t stop the illness from worsening, new medications can slow the progression of the dementia symptoms and help improve the quality of life for the individual, family members, and caregivers.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, help is available. At Park Royal, we provide free evaluations 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. Call us to discuss your individual situation and to make an appointment for a free assessment which will help us to help you determine the best treatment option for you or your loved one.
Statistics of Alzheimer’s
Although clear estimates are difficult to obtain, it is believed that upwards of 7 million people in the U.S. currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The prevalence rate of Alzheimer’s disease rises significantly with age. In the U.S. the prevalence rates for individuals ages 65-74 is 7%, for individuals between the ages of 75 and 84, the estimate is 53%, while for those over the age of 84 the rate increases to 40%. When taking all types of dementias into account, estimates indicate 60% to 90% of all cases are accounted for by Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Learn About Co-Occurring Disorders
Since most individuals with Alzheimer’s are elderly, it is not unusual for them to also have one or more medical conditions. The most common medical condition experienced by individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is cerebrovascular disease. In addition people suffering from Alzheimer’s may experience:
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Causes of Alzheimer’s
While it is believed that Alzheimer’s is caused by a combination at genetic, environmental, and social factors, how each of these ultimately contributes to the development of the disorder is unclear. Similar to other types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is known to be caused by progressive brain cell death. In addition, over time the overall brain mass decreases. This means there are fewer nerve cells and as a result, fewer opportunities for neural connections that lead to communication in the brain. Additionally, there are two hallmarks of this disorder which appear to cause many of the symptoms observed. These are neurotic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are abnormal neuronal formations found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. While these formations can only be observed upon autopsy and thus aren’t useful for diagnostic purposes, they reliably validate the diagnosis upon death. While other causes have been speculated, such as genetic inheritance, to date there is not enough data to conclude whether this disease does, in fact, run in families due to a inherited genetic influence or if families who have more elderly members are more likely to have an increased number of members who develop Alzheimer’s due to increased age.or alcoholism.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
There is a wide variety of signs and symptoms that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. These include:
- Memory symptoms:
- Poor memory for new information
- During the intermediate stages remote memory is affected
- In late stages memory is untestable
- Language symptoms:
- Mild loss of verbal fluency
- Non-fluency develops in later stages
- Poor comprehension
- Inability to repeat something just said
- In late stages the individual may become practically mute
- Behavioral symptoms:
- Dyssomnia- Difficulty falling asleep or getting to sleep?
- Misplacing items
- Getting lost
- Trouble driving
- Trouble copying figures
- Loss of Gait
- Mood/Psychological symptoms:
Effects of Alzheimer’s
There are a number of effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the individual, family, and caretakers. These may include:
- Inability to communicate that he or she is experiencing pain
- Inability to describe symptoms of another illness
- Inability to follow a prescribed treatment plan
- Inability to notice or describe medication side effects
- Trouble swallowing
- Trouble maintaining balance
- Inability to control bowel and bladder functions
- Family problems
- Inability to form new relationships
- Inability to perform task-based projects
- Experiencing the world as if they are in a former stage of life
- Inability to recognize all but the most familiar person or people in their life – at late stages this may even fail
- Depression, anxiety and a sense of guilt or shame in family members over the inability to help their loved one
- Increased sense of stress in family members
- Depression, anxiety, agitation and anger in caretakers
- Agitation and hostility in the individual with the disorder
- A sense of loss of self