Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly destroys a person’s memory. It slows the ability to think and to perform simple daily tasks. Those with Alzheimer’s may become completely dependent on others for their care.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia especially for people after the age 60 with five percent of adults between ages 65 to 75 and almost half of the adult population over the age of 85 may suffer from the disease.
Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s dementia
Frequently asking the same questions
Repeating the same stories word-for -word
Forgetting simple tasks such as cooking, or getting dressed
Inability to balance the check book or pay bills
Getting lost in familiar places
Neglecting to bathe, wearing the same clothing or mix-matching clothing
Symptoms of moderate stage dementia:
Increased memory loss or confusion
Not recognizing family members
Difficulty completing routine tasks such as getting dressed
Delusions and paranoia
Wandering away from home
Symptoms in the severe stage of dementia:
Problems with communication
Not able to recognize self or family members
Difficulty swallowing resulting in weight loss
Loss of bladder and bowel control
Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed when family members recognize some of the early symptoms of memory loss. A doctor will evaluate the patient based on questions concerning medical history, and changes in behavior or personality. The doctor may conduct brain scans such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.
The patient may be asked to perform simple memory tests, counting, solving problems or using language skills. Tests of blood, urine, and spinal fluid may also be performed. The combination of tests will help with the diagnosis.
If you recognize the symptoms in a family member do not hesitate to have them evaluated by a professional that specializes in neurology. Recognizing early signs is important because AD is a complex disease and the earlier is it detected the sooner treatment can begin.
Although, there is no cure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs to treat Alzheimer’s dementia. For mild to moderate symptoms, rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil may help maintain mental abilities and control specific behavioral symptoms for a period of time. Memantine is designed to help moderate to severe symptoms and donepezil is used for severe symptoms.
For additional help understanding Alzheimer’s dementia you can learn more from support groups, research, services and publications.
Services and publications available are:
National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center for answers to questions, freepublications, referrals to support organizations toll free: 1-800-438-4380 (8:30 am – 5:00 p.m. EST/EDT, Mon – Fri.
NIH Senior Health:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
MedlinePlus, a service of the NIH and National Library of Medicine:
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America:
Sources: NIH Medline Plus the magazine, Family members