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Oct 10

Alzheimer’s Disease – The Epidemic of the Future

We  now live in an aging society. It is common to see people living well into their eighties and longer. We are seeing more Alzheimer’s disease each year and this will continue to increase and affect many more lives in the future. It is now estimated around thirty million people worldwide, will suffer from this insidious disease within twenty years.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative condition that affects the cerebral cortex of the brain and leads to the progressive death of nerve cells. This causes the sufferer to gradually lose their memory. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia making up more than half of dementia sufferers. Around twenty percent of people aged over sixty five experience dementia which is a term that describes many different diseases where people experience serious memory loss.

In addition to affecting primarily people over sixty, it can also affect people as young as thirty and is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The most common symptoms are;

  • become lost in areas that are well known to them,
  • forgetting what things are called and are actually used for and are quite likely to be items that they have used every day during their life.

Causation

“Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a shortage of neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters are the chemical that normally transmit messages to the brain controlling memory, speech and movement.”

Progression of disease

In the early stages; short-term memory loss. The person may be unable to remember things that happened only a short time ago yet can remember things that happened many years before.

Their long-term memory remains intact for quite some time. It is vital for them to share their memories it is like exercise for the brain.

As the disease progresses, the person finds it increasingly difficult to perform day-to-day activities. Even personal care and taking care of their nutritional needs can be affected such as assistance with cooking and be reminded to eat. They may forget people’s names, including close family members which may lead to angry outbursts. They also tend to become restless and suffer from insomnia.

They can sometimes become so confused and forgetful that their resulting actions may put themselves or others at risk such as forgetting to switch off heaters, stoves or putting clothes or papers too near such appliances. They may also act inappropriately, behaving in ways that are totally out of character for them. A person who has always been very properly spoken and behaved may begin using vulgar language or stripping their clothes off in front of other people.

In the later stages; 24 hour care and supervision may be needed as they lose their memory completely. By this time, they are weak and find it hard to walk as the part of the brain that controls muscles succumbs to the disease. They may become wheelchair dependent or even bedridden. Dysphasia (difficulty in swallowing) becomes a problem and may make the person reluctant to eat, resulting in weight loss. They become incontinent and lose all control of both bladder and bowel.

In the final stages of the disease, the person may not recognize anyone but they still recognize the kindness of a soothing voice and a loving smile.

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