Alzheimer's, Not Just An Old Man's Disease

Alzheimer's disease, is a familiar term but few understand the time-bomb about to impact our lives and economy.

In the World Alzheimer Report 2009, ADI estimated that there are 35.6 million people living with dementia worldwide, increasing to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.

In the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures 2010, there are as many as 5.3 million Americans living with the disease and every 70 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s.

In 2010, there will be a half million new cases of Alzheimer’s.
By 2050, there will be nearly a million new cases of Alzheimer’s every year.

Almost all Alzheimer deaths are in the over 65 age group and most over 75. This is a disease associated with age and we can expect it to figure more prominently as world average life expectancy extends. More women suffer Alzheimers because they typcially live longer than men.

Alzheimer's disease is a disorder of the brain tissues causing atrophy and resulting degeneration of memory and other brain functions. The disease attacks at leisure but inexorably causing irreversible dementia which is ultimately fatal.

It was German psychiatrist Dr. Alois Alzheimer who first identified the disease. Initially, he characterised the symptoms as "amnestic writing disorder". Following later studies, Dr. Alzheimer observed that the symptoms far exceeded ordinary memory loss.

Dr. Alzheimer found the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques in the brain. In plain language, unwanted protein deposits irreversibly destroyed brain function through atrophy and shrinkage of brain tissue.

Dr. Alzheimers findings were accepted by the medical community at large and by 1910 the disease was known universally as "Alzheimer's Syndrome" or more popularly, "Alzheimer's Disease".

The most common early symptoms of the disease are confusion, reduced attention span and orientation problems; personality changes; short-term memory loss, language difficulties and mood swings. The commonest and most striking early symptom of Alzheimer's is the loss of short term memory.

Initially, the victim exhibits minor forgetfulness, but as the disease progresses they will start to forget more and more. Strangely, older memories often endure much better. In consequence, Alzheimer patients will become less energetic and spontaneous.

As the condition advances, patients will experience difficulty learning new things and reacting to external stimuli - which results in confusion and poor judgment. Such is Stage 1 of Alzheimer's disease.

During Stage 2, the Alzheimer patient will require assistance to perform complicated tasks. Speech and understanding are noticeably slower. At this stage, Alzheimer's sufferers will have become aware they have the disease, which often causes further problems such as depression and restlessness.

Only the distant past can be recalled and recent events are immediately forgotten. Patients will have difficulty determining time, date and where they are.

The final stage is the most pitiful both for patient and family.

During Stage 3 the Alzheimer sufferer will lose control of many basic bodily functions like chewing and swallowing - nutrition by tube becomes necessary.

Patients will remember hardly anyone any more.
They will lose bowel and bladder control and become vulnerable to infections like pneumonia.

The patient will eventually become bedridden, which brings its own problems and their condition further deteriorates.
Respiratory problems exacerbate.

Now the patient will need constant care.

All caregivers can do is to ensure the patient remains as comfortable as can be managed. In this terminal phase, death inevitably follows and should be considered a merciful release.

Further Reading

Alzheimer 101

Alzheimer's Care Facility

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease And Its Symptoms

Alzheimer's History And Outlook

Alzheimer's Patch

Alzheimer's Patient Treatment And Care

Alzheimer's Testing

Alzheimer's, Not Just An Old Man's Disease

Alzheimers And Dementia

Cause Of Alzheimer's Disease

Drugs As A Treatment For Alzheimers

Drugs To Fight Alzheimer's

Finding Caregivers For Alzheimers

Finding Out Early On About Alzheimers

Keeping People With Alzheimer's Busy

Living With Alzheimer's Disease

Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

Stages Of Alzheimer's

Symptoms Of Alzheimer's

Tell Tale Signs Of Alzheimer's

Understanding Alzheimers Better

What Exactly Is Alzheimer's?

What To Look Out For In Alzheimer's

Who Are You? Alzheimer's Symptoms

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