Alzheimer’s – Alzheimer’s Disease – Dementia
Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia
Watching a loved one suffering is very painful because we usually feel helpless and unable to help them. This is especially true in case of Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects memory and behavior. It is one of the most common types of dementia that happens as our brains age. It develops slowly and usually gets worse with time until it interfers with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is known to affect the life of the patient and those who deal and live with him.
Although 95% of Alzheimer’s patients are above the age of 65, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. 5% of the patients have an early onset in their 40s or their 50s.
Unfortunately Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and gets worse over time. But although it has no cure until now, but there are a lot of medications that help with the symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
The first and most common early sign of Alzheimer’s is the inability to remember new information. This happens because it affects the part of the brain that is associated with learning.
Our brains age just like all the organs in our bodies and it is normal to forget some information or to get confused. But when the confusion becomes so severe or when memory loss interfers with the quality of our lives, then it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s and that our brain cells are failing.
Other symptoms will start to appear over time:
- Feeling disoriented.
- Losing items around the house.
- Severe mood and behavior changes.
- More confusion about memories and events.
- Feeling confused about the time and place.
- Getting lost in a familiar place.
- Forgetting important appointments.
- Suspecting friends, family and even professional caregivers.
- Difficulty in walking, talk and swallowing at a later stage.
Who is a typical Alzheimer’s patient?
- Age: Age is the greatest risk factor in Alzheimer’s as it usually affects people above the age of 65. The risk increases with older age as one in 6 people above the age of 80 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, although some people have an early onset in their 40s or their 50s.
- Gender: It has been noticed that women above 65 are twice more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s opposed to men.
- Genetic inheritance: The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases if someone has a close relative who suffered from the disease. There are still scientific researches to prove that, but it is also noted that people with Down’s syndrome are more subject to Alzheimer’s.
- Lifestyle: Adopting a healthy lifestyle is known to decrease the risks of Alzheimer’s as well as lower the symptoms of dementia. People who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and strokes are usually in higher risk. It is very important for middle aged people to keep their weight under control and to quit smoking as these have also been linked with high risk of Alzheimer’s. There has also been a strong link between untreated depression and dealing with Alzheimer’s during later stages of life.
How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?
Alzheimer’s can be confused with a number of other symptoms. It could be mixed up with signs of vitamins deficiency or thyroid gland malfunction. The symptoms could also be caused by some medications.
Since there is no one test to determine the disease, a doctor should be immediately consulted once a person faces any of the symptoms as this will help to determine the nature and extent of the condition as well as establish a plan to handle it.
The doctor might need to talk to someone who has been living with the patient to determine their mental and psychological abilities. Sometimes, a set of mental tests are required.
A general practitioner might not diagnose the case but would refer the patient to an old age phycstrist or a neurologist. A family member or someone who has been dealing with the patient might be more aware of the changes that the patient went trhough over a course of a few months, maybe more than the patient himself.
What are the stages and complications of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is known to worsen over time and a patient will pass through these stages as the disease affects the brain cells:
- Early stage: Forgetting names and location of items is a normal symptom of aging but when it gets more severe and when a person starts to forget common names and the correct word to describe something it could be an alarming sign. Later on, the person might repeat his questions and his performance at work will decline.
These changes will be more prominent to those who deal with the patient. A patient might be dealing with a lot of anxiety and stress due to their declining abilities.
- Mid stage: This is where the disease is more accurately diagnosed. The patient might be facing difficulty writing checks or recognizing the date. He might be unable to prepare a meal for himself or the family. A person might not be able to remember recent events and will probably find a hard time in managing their own finances.
It is usually difficult for patients to live on their own at this stage and it gets harder as the symptoms increase. Later on, the patient might find difficulty in idtentifying major current events or weather conditions. They will find difficulty in dressing properly and feeding themselves.
A patient will not be able to survive on his own and will need someone to be there all the time. Patients may become very angry and suspicious and will face some mood swings and living alone can be quite dangerous. A person might find difficulty in doing simple mathematical equations and will probably remember the year and the date on some occasions.
- Severe stage: This is where the patient’s condition detererioates relatively quickly. The patient will be unable to get dressed on his own or to choose the proper clothing items. Patients will lose the ability to bathe or brush their teeth without help.
The symptoms will get worse when the patient becomes unable to use the bathroom without help. This may cause some infections and the person might need special undergarmetns or special bedding. Patients start to confuse family members with deceased ones and keep on recalling old memories. Patients’ verbal abilities will also deteriorate as they become less able to use the correct words to describe certain events.
Due to their inability to channel their energy properly, a patient might start to misplace things or do things that are in appropriate. They usually feel scared to be left alone and become even more dependent. The patient starts to lose his ability to speak and might end up with a few words that would make sense. Then he will start to lose the ability to move without assistance.
watch this video to learn how to properly help an Alzheimer’s patient to eat and drink.
If a patient survives this stage, he will lose the ability to sit up straight or to smile as the disease now affects all the brain cells. Patients usually deal with rigidity in the joints that prevent motion and will also experience the re-emerge of some of the neurological reflexes that disappear earlier in life, like the grasp reflex.
How can you live with someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s?
An Alzheimer’s patient will face difficulty with communication skills. A caregiver or a family member needs to pay attention to certain things in order to help the patient cope with his condition:
- Eye contact is very important when talking to a patient who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
- Use gentle touching to help the patient feel safe.
- Encourage mutual 2-way conversations.
- Be patient with mood swings.
- Don’t speak about the patient as if he is not there and encourage him to take decisions when possible.
- It is always useful to use different wordings if the patient doesn’t understand what you mean.
- Keep things simple for the patient. Try to limit choices and use yes or no questions.
- Provide a safe environment for the patient.
- Don’t make them feel like a burden and avoid blaming them.
- A patient might feel paranoid at times, it is important that you don’t feel offended.
- If the person gets aggressive, try to identify the reason before it happens so as to avoid a bad situation.
- Pay attention to the patient’s food and eating style.
Are there any kinds of food that we can eat to prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s progression?
Alzheimer’s is one of the most painful degenerative diseases that patients and family members deal with. But there are some kids of food that can help prevent this disease or slow down the progression of the symptoms:
- Leafy greens: Like spinach and kale that are rich in folate and vitamin B9 will protect the brain cells.
- Beans and legumes: These are rich in iron and vitamin B so they will be great for neurons health.
- Berries and cherries: These contain antioxidants that protect the brain cells from free radicals that can cause further degeneration.
- Pumpkins and carrots: These are rich in vitamin A which is important for cells health.
- Nuts and fish: These are rich in Omega 3 which has been proved to delay the signs of dementia.
- Cinnamon and cumin: These will reduce the inflammation of the brain cells which can cause memory issues.
What else can we do to help a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s?
In addition to prescription medications that are meant to control the symptoms of the disease, there are some alternative medications and supplements that might decrease or delay the progression of the symptoms.
These alternative medications are subject of great debate as some doctors think that they do more harm than good especially that a person suffering from Alzheimer’s will be dealing with an overall deterioration in different body functions.
Caprylic acid might provide an alternative fuel to the brain cells that can no longer benefit from glucose. Subjects who consumed caprylic acid performed better on memory tests according to some studies.
Huperzine A is a moos extract that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. However, taking Huperzine A supplements can contradict with prescription drugs and can cause serious problems.
Alzheimer’s still remains to be one of the dark enemies humanity has to deal with. It is a painful disease that both the patient and his family have to deal and cope with. It is quiet painful to watch a loved one suffer without knowing what is happening to them. But being patient and offering help and support will probably help your loved one and will improve their quality of life. Paying attention to medication and food will not cure the disease but will keep the symptoms in check and will improve the overall quality of your loved one.