What You Should Know about Alzheimer’s Disease
The month of September is designated as World’s Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just a national problem, it’s a global issue that affects nearly 44 million people worldwide. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a memory disease, under the umbrella of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. As symptoms worsen, Alzheimer’s can ultimately affect a person’s ability to complete basic human tasks like speaking and eating. The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to rapidly increase in the next 30 years— from 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today to 14 million by 2050. As the threat of the Alzheimer’s epidemic increases, so do campaigns that spread awareness and raise funds devoted to finding a cure. The first step in spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s is to educate people on the causes of the disease.
Contributing Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
While it would be impossible to identify just one cause of Alzheimer’s, researchers and scientists do believe there are a few leading causes of the disease. Some of the causes and factors can’t necessarily be changed, but some of them, like lifestyle and environment, can help inform our daily lives and decrease our chances of being diagnosed. Listed below are the associated causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
While most people with Alzheimer’s get diagnosed after the age of 65, 10% of patients are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s between the ages of 30 and 60. Age isn’t directly correlated with the disease, however the risk of being diagnosed doubles every five years after the age of 65.
Family History and Genetics
Adults who have immediate family members with Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk for being diagnosed than compared with families without a history of the disease. Researchers and scientists believe that the risk increases with each family member who has the disease. The reason behind this can possibly be attributed to genetics and environment.
According to the National Institute on Aging, researchers haven’t identified a specific gene known to cause the disease. However, many experts believe that those who carry a form of the APOE gene are more at risk of developing the disease than those who do not.
Environment and Lifestyle
Those who study Alzheimer’s believe there is a connection between the brain and the heart, which can ultimately influence the risk of developing the disease. This means that those who experience high-blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, or heart disease should be aware of the symptoms of the disease and consult with their healthcare provider. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising daily will decrease your risk of heart disease, ultimately decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Brain health is also a factor when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s. Falls and brain trauma are also known to be underlying factors to the disease. Protecting your brain by wearing your seatbelt and decluttering your home to decrease your risk of falling, can help protect you from Alzheimer’s dementia.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s can cause a slow decline in memory or thinking, which can be difficult to detect, especially in the beginning stages. The Alzheimer’s Association has provided these warning signs. If you or your loved one experience these signs, you should alert your doctor immediately.
- Disruptive memory loss. Many aging adults experience changes in their memory, like forgetting someone’s name or an appointment. However, many will remember them later. Those with Alzheimer’s are not likely to remember what they forget and are more likely to rely on memory aids like excessive note-taking.
- Difficulty with problem solving. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s are likely to get confused by numbers, especially when it comes to balancing a checkbook or paying bills. They might also experience difficulty following instructions and take more time to complete tasks
- Difficulty recalling words. Adults with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease might experience challenges when it comes to speaking and writing. You might notice a difference in vocabulary, or a difficulty in naming objects or structuring sentences. If any of these symptoms occur, always consult a healthcare provider.
- Confusion with location. Oftentimes, adults developing the disease will put items in unusual places, forget where items are, or have a difficulty remembering how to get back to their homes. As the disease progresses, this symptom can become severe.
- Changes in mood and withdrawal. Alzheimer’s patients can become depressed, anxious, or fearful. This can lead to a lack of interest in social outings and gatherings. Many of these adults will try to distance themselves from these situations in an effort to disguise their symptoms.
There are different levels of Alzheimer’s disease that can present a variety of symptoms. If you or your loved one ever experience the symptoms listed above, it can only help to contact your doctor or healthcare provider.
Tips for Caregivers
Caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s comes with its own challenges. If your parent or loved one is suffering from this disease, here are a few tips from the National Institute on Aging to make caring for someone with Alzheimer’s less stressful.
- When communicating, make sure to speak clearly and at a normal rate of speed, refocusing the person as needed.
- When bathing or grooming, remember to use extra safety precautions like a rubber bath mat, safety bars, and have bathing items such as shampoo and soap in your reach.
- Remember to take care of yourself. It sounds simple, but eating meals, exercising, and getting enough sleep can make you a better caregiver.
How can I get Involved?
Each year the Alzheimer’s Association spreads awareness of the disease by hosting walks in cities across the country. The proceeds from these events are used to educate people on the disease and work towards finding a cure.
Maplewood Senior Living proudly supports these efforts by participating in a number of Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in the communities we serve. Many of these walks will be taking place in the coming weeks. Join us in supporting Alzheimer’s awareness by participating in your city’s ALZ walk. You can find your local ALZ walk here!
Enjoy a few photos of our Walk Teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ohio.