Alzheimer's Disease Causes, Stages, and Symptoms (cont.)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Alzheimer's disease facts*
- What is dementia?
- What is Alzheimer's disease?
- Who develops Alzheimer's disease?
- What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
- Ten warning signs of Alzheimer's disease
- What are the causes Alzheimer's disease?
- What are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease?
- How is the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease made?
- What is the prognosis of a person with Alzheimer's disease?
- What treatment and management options are available for Alzheimer's disease?
- Cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs)
- Partial glutamate antagonists
- Non-medication based treatments
- Treatment of psychiatric symptoms
- Potential and future therapies for Alzheimer's disease
- Caring for the caregiver and Alzheimer's disease resources
- National Institute on Aging home safety for people with Alzheimer's disease
- General safety concerns for persons with Alzheimer's disease
- Is it safe to leave the person with Alzheimer's disease alone?
- Home safety room-by-room
- Home safety behavior-by-behavior
- Special occasions/gatherings/holidays
- Impairment of the senses
- Natural disaster safety
- Who would take care of the person with Alzheimer's disease if something happened to you?
- Additional resources
- Alzheimer's Disease FAQs
- Find a local Geriatrician in your town
Potential and future therapies for Alzheimer's disease
A variety of clinical research trials are underway with agents that try either to decrease the amount of Aβ1-42 produced or increase the amount of Aβ1-42 removed. It is hoped that such therapies may slow down the rate of progression of Alzheimer's disease. As of June 2007, it is not known how well such therapies may work.
Caring for the caregiver and Alzheimer's disease resources
Caring for the caregiver is an essential element of managing the patient with Alzheimer's disease. Caregiving is a distressing experience. On the other hand, caregiver education delays nursing home placement of Alzheimer's disease patients. The 3Rs - Repeat, Reassure, and Redirect - can help caregivers reduce troublesome behaviors and limit the use of medications. The short-term educational programs are well liked by family caregivers and can lead to a modest increase in disease knowledge and greater confidence among caregivers. Educational training for staffs of long-term care facilities can decrease the use of antipsychotics in Alzheimer's disease patients.
Caregivers should be directed to support services, particularly the Alzheimer's Association (1-800-272-3900, www.alz.org/chapter/).
National Institute on Aging home safety for people with Alzheimer's disease
Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease is a challenge that calls upon the patience, creativity, knowledge, and skills of each caregiver. We hope that this booklet will help you cope with some of these challenges and develop creative solutions to increase the security and freedom of the person with Alzheimer's in your home, as well as your own peace of mind.
This booklet is for those who provide in-home care for people with Alzheimer's disease or related disorders. Our goal is to improve home safety by identifying potential problems in the home and offering possible solutions to help prevent accidents.
We begin with a checklist to help you make each room in your home a safer environment for the person with Alzheimer's. Next, we hope to increase awareness of the ways specific impairments associated with the disease can create particular safety hazards in the home. Specific home safety tips are listed to help you cope with some of the more hazardous behaviors that may occur as the disease advances. We also include tips for managing driving and planning for natural disaster safety. The information ends with a list of resources for family caregivers.
What is the definition of Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, irreversible brain disease that destroys memory and thinking skills. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that as many as 5.1 million Americans has the disease, which affects people of all racial, economic, and educational backgrounds. Although Alzheimer's primarily affects people age 60 or older, it also may affect people in their 50s and, rarely, even younger.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in adults. Dementia is a loss of memory and intellect that interferes with daily life and activities. Dementia is not a disease; rather, it is a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases and conditions. Other symptoms include changes in personality, mood, or behavior.
Other causes of irreversible dementia include vascular dementia and alcohol abuse. The recommendations in this booklet deal primarily with common problems in Alzheimer's, but they also may be helpful for people with other types of dementia.
What do the Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease look like?
There is no "typical" person with Alzheimer's. There is tremendous variability among people with Alzheimer's in their behaviors and symptoms. At present, there is no way to predict how quickly the disease will progress in any one person or the exact changes that will occur. We do know, however, that many of these changes will present problems for caregivers. Therefore, knowledge and prevention are critical to safety.
People with Alzheimer's disease have memory problems and cognitive impairment (difficulties with thinking and reasoning), and eventually they will not be able to care for themselves. They often experience confusion, loss of judgment, and difficulty finding words, finishing thoughts, or following directions. They also may experience personality and behavior changes. For example, they may become agitated, irritable, or very passive. Some people with Alzheimer's may wander from home and become lost. Others may not be able to tell the difference between day and night—they may wake up, get dressed, and start to leave the house in the middle of the night thinking that the day has just started. People with Alzheimer's also can have losses that affect vision, smell, or taste.
These disabilities are very difficult, not only for the person with Alzheimer's, but for the caregiver, family, and other loved ones as well. Caregivers need resources and reassurance to know that while the challenges are great, specific actions can reduce some of the safety concerns that accompany Alzheimer's disease.
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