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Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

June 13, 2022
Categories: News

A Better Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease

Many people believe that a bit of forgetfulness is typical for older adults and seniors, and we all have moments where we’ve forgotten why we walked into a room or opened the refrigerator, but persistent short-term memory loss is not a normal part of aging. 

Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to affect more than 5 million Americans, and that number is expected to rise over the coming decades. But Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed. It also affects approximately 16 million Americans who provide primary care for a loved one who is living with the disease.

It’s important to understand Alzheimer’s disease, what it is, and its early signs, risk factors and treatments. Here’s some information so you can be better informed:

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It’s the most common type, accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. It’s a progressive disease, in which people lose cognitive function and the ability to react to their environment. There is currently no cure, and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is 4 to 8 years.

Scientists believe that deposits of proteins, called beta-amyloid plaques, build up in the synapses of a person’s brain. These are the spaces between nerve cells that allow them to interact so a person can think, learn and remember. There is also a buildup of another protein called tau that presents as tangles, further disrupting brain function.

The buildup of these proteins gets in the way of proper brain function by blocking the normal way brain cells communicate with each other. They also cause these brain cells to atrophy over time and eventually die.

Symptoms and Signs of Alzheimer’s

The most common early signs of Alzheimer’s are frequent short-term memory loss and a noticeable increase in difficulty remembering new information. This is because it’s common for the plaques and tangles to first form in the part of the brain that has to do with learning. 

There are several stages of Alzheimer’s, as the damage to the nerve endings spreads throughout the brain. Over time, symptoms become more severe and can include:

  • Increased confusion
  • Serious memory loss
  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Anger and frustration toward loved ones
  • Eventually difficulty walking, speaking and swallowing

Risk Factors and Decreasing Your Risk

Scientists don’t understand everything about what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but some risk factors have been identified. A person’s risk increases with age, and most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. And after age 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years.

Another risk factor is family history. If someone has a family member who had Alzheimer’s, they’re more likely to develop the disease than someone who does not. This increased risk can be caused by genetics, by environmental factors, or some combination of both.

There are some risk factors that can be minimized with behavior changes. An overall healthy lifestyle is always beneficial, and with Alzheimer’s, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can increase risk. The brain functions using a great deal of oxygen and other nutrients found in the blood, and the less efficiently your circulation is functioning, the greater your risk for problems to occur.

Head injury has also been found to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. From falls to car accidents to sports injuries, any sort of brain injury can contribute to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. For this reason, it’s important to wear your seat belt, wear a helmet when appropriate for cycling or other sports, and keep your home as safe and clutter-free as possible to prevent falls.

Treatments for Alzheimer’s

Though there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are some FDA-approved drugs people can use to treat symptoms: 

  •     One group of drugs, called cholinesterase inhibitors, prevent the break down of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for learning and memory. 
  •     Another type of drug that is sometimes prescribed helps regulate the activity of chemicals in the brain that help it to process information. 
  •     A third type is a combination of both. 

 Like any medication, they can each affect individuals differently.

 There are also nondrug interventions that caregivers can use to help people with Alzheimer’s cope with the difficulties of symptoms:  

  •      Help keep the person comfortable. Look for signs of hunger, thirst, fatigue, a need to use the bathroom, or being uncomfortable with the temperature.
  •     If someone with cognitive impairment is saying something incorrect, or wanting to contact a loved one who has died, there’s no need to make a correction. You can simply acknowledge that you think they’re a nice person, too.
  •     Keep a calm, restful environment, free of ambient noise or lights that may be distracting.
  •     Allow for plenty of rest, especially after a period of activity.

There are many support groups that can help a caregiver with ideas and even respite. It’s important for a caregiver to seek support and keep themselves healthy and happy. A doctor’s office will have information on support groups and there are many groups who communicate online.

Alzheimer’s Care at Artis Senior Living

Artis Senior Living is a group of 27 Memory Care communities in 11 states that are designed to maximize the comfort, safety and quality of life of all residents. The community in Lakeview, IL, includes assisted living. These communities are designed to be easy and pleasant to navigate, so residents can move freely with maximum safety and can minimize confusion. Areas are small, and connected to a core central area, which helps to manage overstimulation. 

Our expert care partners are specially trained to give your loved one a safe and comfortable home, and give them the ability to make individual choices based on personal preferences. We also incorporate the latest technology, and continually evolve our expertise, equipment and strategies to provide our residents with the quality of life they truly deserve. 

The Artis Way

Our unwavering philosophy is based on the partnership we share with our residents. Each person who trusts us with their care is treated as a special and unique individual who is not defined by any limitations. Everyone involved in the care of each resident knows their individual needs and preferences, and every resident receives an individual partnership profile. We communicate with families as we all advocate for residents, giving everyone involved peace of mind. Every resident, at every level of care, may do as they wish, spending their days doing what makes them happy. And we respond quickly to any possible issue, 24 hours a day.

If you want to find out more about Alzheimer’s disease, our Memory Care innovations, our award-winning care and experiencing The Artis Way of living, contact us.

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