November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

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What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disesase (AD) is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility. It’s characterized by memory lapses, confusion, emotional instability and progressive loss of mental ability.

The disease is irreversible and progressively worsens over time. It deteriorates  memory and cognitive abilities, which eventually causes the simple tasks to become (near) impossible. Diagnoses most often occur among adults in their early 60’s.

The disease attacks the brain, causing plaques and tangles. This is the primary physical symptom of Alzheimer’s. The abnormalities will feature a loss of connecting neurons in the brain. These neurons are responsible for transmitting messages between different parts of the brain, then to muscles or organs in the body.

Treatment to help monitor and manage these symptoms are available for some people, but there is currently no known cure to treat this crippling disease.

How common is Alzheimer’s disease?

More than 5 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s, with 3 million more projected every year. Sadly, until the disease can be treated or prevented, numbers will continue to rise.

What are the stages and life expectancy of Alzheimer’s?

Early Stage

In the early stages, a person has the ability to function independently. They may still be a part of work and social activities, yet the person may experience minor memory lapses. During an extensive medical visit, a doctor may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration.

Middle Stage

The second stage is the longest stage and can last for many years. A person might confuse words, get frustrated or angry or act out of character. The damage inflicted in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.

Moderate Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care.

You may notice the person with Alzheimer’s confusing words, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.

Final Stage

The final stage of the disease will bring a need for full-time, around the clock assistance for personal care. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and eventually the ability to control movement. Although they may still say words and phrases, communicating pain becomes difficult. Since memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, changes in personality become apparent.

In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.

The stages can move along rapidly or slowly progress, which is the situation for most cases. Since the progression of Alzheimer’s varies, the time from diagnosis to death does as well. If the person is older than 80, the time can be anywhere from 3 to 4 years but as little as 10 or more years if the person is younger.

Currently, Alzheimer’s ranks in some studies as the sixth to as high as the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is edged out by only heart disease and cancer in deaths pertaining to older people.

 

 

If you think that you or someone you know may have Alzheimer’s, contact us today.

 

(Source: The National Institute on Aging)

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