Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss, possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
Alzheimer’s usually starts in the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, the disease gradually spreads to other parts of the brain making the symptoms progressively worse.
Although scientists are learning more every day, right now, they still do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Early-onset may be due to genetic mutation and late-onset arise from a series of complex brain changes over decades. Treatment may temporarily delay the appearance of symptoms, but as yet there is no cure.
How do I know if It Is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of cognitive loss. In addition to memory problems, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may experience one or more of the following signs:
- Memory loss
- Challenges in planning or problem solving
- Gets lost, disoriented with time and place.
- Has trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Repeats questions.
- Takes longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- New problems with speaking and writing
- Trouble with visual images and spatial relationships
- Displays poor judgment.
- Loses things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Displays mood and personality changes, withdrawn.
If you or someone you know has several or even most of the signs listed above, it does not mean that you or they have Alzheimer’s disease.
It is important to consult a health care provider when you or someone you know has concerns about memory loss, thinking skills, or behavioral changes.
Early diagnosis and active medical management can improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Treatment focuses on several different aspects:
- Helping people maintain mental function.
- Managing behavioral symptoms.
- Slowing or delaying the symptoms of the disease.
An estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2020. Eighty percent are age 75 or older. This number may triple to as high as 13.8 million people by 2050.
- One in 10 people age 65 and older (10%) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
- Older African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
- Alzheimer’s is the fifth-leading cause of death among those age 65 and older and is also is a leading cause of disability and poor health.
Between 2000 and 2018, the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease as recorded on death certificates has more than doubled, increasing 146%, while the number of deaths from the number one cause of death (heart disease) decreased 7.8%.
People age 65 and older survive an average of 4 to 8 years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia, yet some live as long as 20 years with Alzheimer’s. This reflects the slow, uncertain progression of the disease.
Unfortunately, due to Covid19, many events to raise awareness and research funding has gone virtual or were canceled.
Central Jersey, especially Monmouth County has memory care facilities, adult day care, and home care agencies specific to Alzheimer’s patients. We have amazing specialists in the field so help is not far away.
Monmouth County is rich with resources for Alzheimer patients and caregivers. Many of the support groups have gone virtual, using Zoom and Webinars to stick to social distancing. There are too many to list and they are so easy to find searching the internet.
Some great sites to get your local support groups are: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/alzheimers/nj/monmouth-county
These resources help the patient, and the families work through the disease and arrange the best care and support for all concerned. Research is ongoing and hopefully a cure or prevention will be found in our lifetimes.