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With age, most body organs begin to deteriorate in their function. This happens to the brain also, thereby reducing the overall speed of functioning of most organs. While slowing of bodily movement is visible, the internal organs functioning also slows down, which is not that obvious. Memory loss or dementia is one of the main manifestations of this degeneration of the brain.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and the associated symptoms includes reduced reasoning abilities and cognitive defects. Though it is seen only in the elderly, not all elderly people will have Alzheimer’s. The overall quality of life of the affected person is reduced with difficulty remembering things that were recently learned. It is a progressive disease and as it gets more severe, a full-time caretaker may be required.
Causes: The brain cells are affected by protein masses known as plaques and tangles. These hamper the way communication between the brain cells happens as well as affect nutrition from reaching all parts of the brain. This leads to shrinking of the brain, eventually leading to memory loss and other problems. There is also a strong genetic linkage, as most people with Alzheimer’s have the lipoprotein A gene.
Symptoms: Though memory loss is the most common symptom, there are other symptoms:
- Being confused about places, people, and times
- Inability to find the right words during conversations
- Regular objects are misplaced
- Becoming irritable, (in someone who was not so previously)
- Mood swings
- Personality changes
- Inability to organise thoughts
- Not able to make the right decisions
- Repetitive talks and actions
- Forgetfulness (not something the person always does)
- Difficulty with numbers (again, not something calculations
- Difficulty managing everyday tasks and minor problems
- Suspicion of others (like immediate family members and friends)
Risk factors: While age is definitely a risk factor, the fact that not all aged people develop Alzheimer’s is to be borne in mind. Other risk factors include the history of stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and poor lifestyle choices.
Diagnosis: While there is no definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s, symptoms along with brain scans and neuropsychological function testing are useful ways to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment: This is aimed at two things reducing the rate of disease progression and treat (or reverse) symptoms if possible.
Cholinesterase inhibitors improve cellular communication in the brain and also manage depression and agitation. Memantine is used to slow the pace of disease progression.
In people with the disease, small changes are useful to help them with the symptoms. These include keeping essential things like keys and wallet in the same place, keep a daily diary to help them remember things, keep pictures of friends and family within visible distance.
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I am 69 years old male. I am feeling problem of numbness in my fingers since last 7-8 years in the night, when I awake. In the beginning it started with tips of 2 fingers. Later on with the time it increased to full fingers of right hand. Now it also started in left hand also. Numbness occurs in all the fingers. It becomes normal, if I open.
World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated on the 21st of September each year. A number of organizations, from all over the world concentrate on raising the awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a very common type of dementia. It falls under the group of disorders in which mental functioning gets impaired. Life for an Alzheimer’s patients is quite difficult, but by following the following tips, you can support yourself and will also help you to cope with it.
- You have to accept the changes and accept that life will continue getting difficult. Instead of trying to cover your difficulties for protection from embarrassment, you should face the fact. You also have to accept the changes in your physical abilities and adapt to skills, which are beneficial.
- You should develop some ideal coping strategies. Try to be occupied and involved and respond to the challenges you face in everyday life. By practicing the coping skills you will be able to gain a sense of control in your life.
- Try to identify stuff. Make a list of all the tasks which seem challenging to you and try to develop coping strategies for these tasks. Prioritize your tasks and determine whether it is really necessary to overcome certain tasks. You should also strategize solutions and come up with solutions which would suit you best.
- You should set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and use the coping skills to deal with difficult tasks. In case of very challenging tasks, do not hesitate to take help.
- A daily routine or plan is required for keeping a track of several tasks. A schedule reduces the amount of time you spend to figure out something, simplifying your task and also prevents mistakes.
- Always approach one task at a time and take enough time to complete tasks. Do not give up on challenging tasks and take breaks to figure things out.
- Always remember that you have more than a single chance to solve problems. If one chance fails, you should adopt new strategies and try again and again with better assessment.
- You should identify the triggers which cause anxiety and stress. Knowing the causes will allow you to plan in advance so that you can prevent them.
- Keep in mind that your family, friends, pets, will power and prayers are sources of great strength and will help you get past any obstacle.
- You should accept help from others and do not hesitate or think about being dependent on others.
You should take the advice from your psychiatrist or from Alzheimer Association National Early-Stage Advisors in order to understand the challenges such as medications, management of schedules and dealing with emotional or relationship changes.