Alzheimer’s Disease – What Does It Do?
Age is the true enemy of mankind. There is nothing we can do about the long-standing wait until our bodies start to grow old and weak. In addition, our bodies’ immune system can only get weaker than time passes on. Certain diseases are afoot when we reach a certain age and that includes the likes of Alzheimer’s disease among other things. But what does that particular disease do to a person?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia often found in seniors, people aged 60 and over. Although, there have been uncommon cases that showcase the disease manifesting at a much younger age on select people.
This disease is a progressive illness that only gets worse as the disorder grows and degenerates more of your brain cells. A decline in thought process and memory would start to inhibit in a person’s mind that could potentially rend them to forget important long-term details about their life. At worse, they can regress their memory back to when they were much younger and completely forgetting their memory of the past few years.
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Differentiating Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are both mental illnesses that degrades the brain of an older person to forget simple tasks and memories. This disease can spread and affect the patient in such a way that they could become violent or aggressive due to the sudden confusion of their current environment. At worst, they could even forget a close relative such as their partner or children completely. However, there are clear differences between the 2 diseases and that discerning which is which could help in finding a suitable solution to improving their overall health.
Let us start with Dementia. Although both sicknesses have varying degrees of severity, dementia is caused by a sudden change in blood pressure and supply to the brain which is often a result of a stroke. This symptom would cause dementia to develop in a quick and unpredictable manner, unlike Alzheimer’s disease which is a gradually forming illness. The degree of dementia would be congruent to the size and severity of the blood clot. Some common symptoms of a person with dementia would be:
Language reasoning issues
Difficulty with coordinating with tasks
Mood and/or personality changes
Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a disease that takes a slower approach to infect the person. The disease is caused by nerve cells being damaged whether through natural causes or external. This would cause various symptoms to develop at a slower but more methodical pace that would only get worse and worse as time passes by. Some common symptoms would include:
The gradual loss of thinking and reasoning
Lack of good judgment/Developing rash decisions
Difficulty in remembering people regardless of closeness
Struggles to perform simple tasks
The Warning Signs Of Degradation
Memory is a fickle subject. This is something that we need to cultivate at a young age to prevent any form of wilting as we age. That is why it is crucial for an ageing person to continuously stimulate their brains into a fully functional machine by actively using each main component of their brain at all times. Without stimulation in the brain, the development of Alzheimer’s could only increase at a much faster rate than ever. Some warning signs that could signify the degradation process are as follows:
Daily Life Quality Will Dampen Due To Memory Loss
No one likes to forget something they need to do at that particular moment where they want to do something. That frustrating sudden loss of memory is something that most Alzheimer’s patients will suffer through on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the level of memory loss that a possible Alzheimer’s patient could suffer from would be on a scale at which they could easily forget important dates, names, and important information despite the repeated process of explaining.
Difficulty in Solving Simple Instructions
It is a common thing to forget a part of an instruction manual or mistaken one piece for another when building. However, a great warning sign that Alzheimer’s could be developing on a person is their inability to follow even the simplest of directions.
This is not to a point where they would be stubborn or ignorant about listening on said instructions, instead, this difficulty is formed through the inability to piece together a string of instructions due to mishandling information or forgetting the previous instruction completely.
Struggling to Perform Simple Everyday Activities
The older you get, the more difficult life seems to be for a person. They would feel weaker in the body and slow in understanding the complex nuances of modern technology. However, simple tasks that could normally be done by anyone can become a chore to those with developing symptoms.
Such examples would be washing the dishes, folding laundry, driving, or even basic manoeuvres such as whistling could become an almost impossible task for them.
Misjudgment of Time and Place
Locations and time details can get confusing for almost everyone at one point, but a potential Alzheimer’s patient will take it a step too far.
Some developing patients could lose the sense of the season or even important dates such as their own birthday.
Recognizing Distance Imagery and Reading
This is something that almost all ageing people would suffer through regardless of symptoms. The body will simply weather away due to the degradation of cells. Reading and recognizing distances may not be an automatic indicator that the person in question is developing Alzheimer’s, but it does show signs of severe aging.
One aspect that should be considered when looking for a warning sign should be on the ability of the potential patient to recognize familiar scenery or people. If important people to them such as their partner or family seem unfamiliar in pictures then there is a clear sign that something is happening in their brain. Unfortunately, there are cases where their own reflection could seem foreign to them.
Conversations Can Be Troublesome
A person with a developing disease such as Alzheimer’s can be found to forget important details that are currently being thrown around during a conversation. However, there are worse cases in which the person could potentially stop in the middle of a conversation due to them forgetting exactly what they were talking about. Those are definite clear indicators that there is something wrong with their well-being.
Another possible warning sign would be a repetition of thought. It is not uncommon for people with developing Alzheimer’s to forget that they have already told a story to a person or even repeat the exact sentence that they were just previously saying due to memory loss.
Constant Losing of Items
No one likes to forget important items such as their keys and wallets when they leave. However, such is the case for a potential Alzheimer’s patient. It will happen all too often that they would forget simple items and activities such as keys and locking the house to a point that they could go through their entire day without noticing that they forgot something.
Best to keep a checklist handy for them to follow through every item that they may forget in case of an emergency.
Terrible Taste in Judgment
Alzheimer’s disease can cause a person’s mind to make rash and unintelligible decisions without first considering the consequences. Often times, the person would just simply do the action without any rhyme or reason as for them, it is the right thing to do.
Be wary of them falling for scams or purchasing something expensive without considering the prices or impact of their decisions.
Personal hygiene may be impacted as well as the sudden impulse to do something may overtake the need to conduct proper hygiene care.
Lack of Participation in Social Activities
A sudden change in personality is common for older people as some things they enjoy may not seem as important to them as it would before they got older. Although, a sudden decline to do anything fascinating is a worrying sign that they are developing some form of the disorder.
If you notice that your older relative starts to get disinterested in anything including social conversation then that could potentially be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s developing.
A Sudden Change in Personality
It is uncommon for a person to stay exactly as they are, in terms of personality, through time. Our values and goals change over time to the point that we can easily see that we are not the same person as we were 10 years ago. However, an Alzheimer’s riddled patient could suddenly do a full 180-degree shift in how they would usually act.
A sudden complete change in personality is a massive warning sign that should be acknowledged as soon as possible as that big of a change could indicate that the person’s psyche is already being damaged due to diseases.
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The Causes Of Alzheimer’s Disease
The problem with Alzheimer’s disease is that it is still unknown as to what is the exact source of this particular disease. One thing is for certain is that it is closely linked to age, in that the closer a person gets to reaching the latter part of their life, the higher the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The connection of lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors are all initially thought to be directly involved in the formation of said disease but more research is still being conducted to clarify the impact of those external factors.
The formation of the disease begins with small and insignificant brain-related issues. There are 2 ways in which the damage could arise. One such way is through plaques covering and damaging the brain that could impact the way the brain processes information. This plaque is commonly comprised of beta-amyloid, a protein fragment that can build up between the areas of the nerves which would then compress the nerve causing certain brain functions to either slow down to a snail’s pace or die out completely.
Another form of brain-related damage could come in the form of entanglement of the nerve cells, similar to how an earphones cord could get clustered up, which would block up any information process due to the lack of blood and sufficient oxygen powering the nerve. The entanglement of the twisted fibres derives from a protein source known as the “tau”.
Regardless in the form of damage, your brain is receiving, be it through plaque covering or entanglement, the process in which Alzheimer’s is developed is otherwise the same as any other. The degradation process will always target the most vital parts of our brain, the learning and memory aspect. This decaying process would then spread to other parts of our learning annex until the entire brain is filled to the brim with this disease.
Do note that every person will develop these tangles and plaques over time regardless of symptoms, however, an Alzheimer’s riddled patient will have a more severe number and damage as opposed to a healthier person. People of all ages have a chance at developing Alzheimer’s with the most common ones being people with advanced age. Nevertheless, genetic factors can come into play to pose an increased risk of developing the disease.
Genetic Impact to Alzheimer’s Disease
One thing that does have a significant connection to Alzheimer’s is our genetic coding, otherwise known as DNA. Each and every person has their unique code that would describe who we are as a unique and individual person. As such, the disease is considered an inherited trait that could stem from multiple generations of your family’s bloodline. Although, a family member that has developed Alzheimer’s disease does not automatically mean that you yourself will be forced to succumb to the exact same disease as the former did.
Genetics plays a role in formatting our body to react and evolve through a set code that is permanently embedded in our bodies from the day we are born. However, that would mean that there is a strong possibility that we can inherit what is known as a “faulty gene” from our parent. This “faulty genome”, more commonly referred to as a genetic mutation, is a genome that functions improperly as opposed to other genomes. This could result in a higher risk for certain diseases depending on the inherited genetic mutation including Alzheimer’s disease.
A person has an increased chance of developing a late-onset Alzheimer’s when a genetic mutation is present in the body. There are over 20+ genes that are considered to contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. As more research is being conducted on a daily scale, more discoveries are being made at the increased risk factors of said disease. Although, a genetic mutation does not automatically result in a severe increase of Alzheimer’s, rather use this as a warning to be extra cautious on those with developing symptoms.
One specific risk gene that can significantly cause a spike in Alzheimer’s developing in the brain would be the APOE. This gene is a protein that serves as a way to keep the brain cells happy, similar to how certain endorphins can produce the same result. Each person has his own variant of the APOE genome; APOE2, APOE3, and APOE4. This genome is inherited from each parent but only one from each is chosen.
This genome is linked to developing the disease with the higher the number of APOE strain a person has, the more likely Alzheimer’s disease will develop from a younger age. For example, a person with the APOE4 genome is said to exhibit a 4 times stronger likelihood of developing the disease even at a young age as opposed to someone with an APOE2. In addition, we inherit one APOE genome from each parent which could only increase the likelihood of the disease developing early on. There are even rare cases wherein a person with 2 APOE4 strains that could severely impact the chances of developing Alzheimer’s by a whopping 8 times that of a normal person.
Although, it is vital to understand that there are more contributing factors that can either increase or decrease the likelihood of Alzheimer’s developing in a person. A person at high risk could survive their entire lifespan without developing the disease while another can despite the low risk.
Testing for Genetic Likelihood of Alzheimer’s Disease
Genetic testing has evolved in huge waves that can create new and exciting ways we can determine the issues that can be linked with genetics including Alzheimer’s disease.
You can apply yourself for a genetic predisposition test at a reliable local facility to determine the risk genes that could factor into your likelihood of developing diseases. Remember that there are more than just risk factors that can contribute to your overall well-being. The testing process would then scan your genetic code for any flags that could signify potential risks that need to be addressed.
This testing process is important as you can learn more about your body and the weaknesses you possess. The information presented to you can benefit you in improving your overall lifestyle and avoid crucial factors that could otherwise interrupt your growth process.
In addition, this information is crucial to know what potential risk genes you have that could be transferred to your future offspring should they develop symptoms as well. Prevention is always better than finding a cure. This predictive genetic testing can even be done by your entire family to prevent the unfortunate development of various diseases.
The testing that a person will undergo when it comes to discerning whether they have Alzheimer’s may take a couple of days or so before the results can be fully analysed. As such, there will be an increased amount of tension and panic that could arise from all this waiting.
It is important that everyone that the person in question loves should be around to support him or her during this trying endeavour. Talk with everyone to process through the emotional baggage and impact the implications of being diagnosed could entail. It is important to note that the potential patient may need some space or would prefer the company of close family and friends. Make sure that the person is loved and cared for to prevent the formation of other forms of mental illnesses such as depression.
The patient is not the only one that needs time and space to process, however, his or her family and friends will need their own moment to let the situation come into effect on their own time. Try to avoid any unnecessary panic and stress whenever possible as it is important to keep in mind that the patient in question needs to feel safe and secure despite the situation at hand.
There would be various changes that would need to be implemented when living with someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In addition, a professional medical assistant may be assigned to help watch over the patient depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Regardless of the severity of the results, understand that the patient will undergo some severe trauma and depression both from initially learning about the disease and during major episodes where panic may ensue.
Always remember that a loved one is still important despite the illnesses and disabilities they could potentially carry and that they are still the same person despite the Alzheimer’s.
Important Things to Note When Caring for an Alzheimer’s Patient
The results come back and you are fearing the worst, unfortunately, your worst fears are realized and your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This moment is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can experience. There is no greater fear than knowing that there could be a moment wherein your loved one would regress the memory of you ever being met.
However, that person is still an important member of our lives, and we should always strive to take care of them regardless of their condition. As such, there are a couple of things to note before attempting to manage and care for an Alzheimer’s riddled patient.
The first thing that you, and everyone who is important to that person, should not take it personally when your loved one goes through an episode where they could not remember who you are. Always remember that Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease and there is no direct cure nor control mechanism to force them to trigger a specific person during times of hardships. You and your loved ones should take these moments to speak with a professional counsellor or psychiatrist to voice out your feelings during difficult moments such as these to prevent any pent-up resentment you may have on the person.
Also, do not forget to treat them as a member of the family despite their condition. Their minds may not be as sharp as they used to be, but they are still the same person deep down where it matters. This should always be taken into consideration when discussing the well-being of the patient as they are more than just a person with a disease. Make them feel special by instilling in their minds that they are still incredibly valuable to you despite the memory issues and their struggles at remembering important details. Some activities you can do to cheer up their day would be to:
Make their favourite meal
Their memory may not be as strong as it once were but that does not mean that their taste buds suddenly disappear. Make them a special meal that you know they would enjoy putting a smile into their face that shows that they are important enough for you to remember what they enjoy.
Avoid using meals which they can be sensitive or allergic, if you are not sure what foods can affect their health, you can order here the Intolerance and Sensitivity Test.
Show some love every once in a while
There could be episodes where the patient may be experiencing a form of panic that could lead to a professional nurse stepping in to calm them down. However, in moments that are calm and peaceful, you should still show some affection by hugging or holding their hands to showcase the importance of being around family. They might not remember the gesture every time but it will make them special when they need some reminding that they are still important regardless of what they might think of themselves or their condition.
Have some laughter in your lives
The disease is unavoidable once they have it. That may be true but that does not mean that there is no reason for you and your loved one to live in sadness and wallowing. The memory may be an issue but laughter is not. Find something that both of you can enjoy and have a good laugh together. Remember that laughter is the best medicine of them all and in this scenario, both you and your loved one deserve a little happiness in your lives.
You can even play some simple board games to stimulate the brain and promote a fun challenge that would not require too much stress on their brain.
Bring in more people that spread even more love for the patient
Dealing with a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s is one of the most difficult things a person can do. So imagine the amount of guilt and paint the patient must feel knowing that they are causing much-unneeded stress to the people that love them. It is important to show that despite the suffering he or she might feel, he or she is still loved not only by you but also his or her own other friends and families.
This is important for both you and your loved one as neither of you has to shoulder this pain and responsibility by yourselves. You can reach out to other friends or even a community dedicated to helping people with Alzheimer’s to branch out your bubble and share the love that they so desperately need.
Patience and understanding are key to understanding the emotional baggage of dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient. As such, you need to do your best to prevent any unwanted stress for both you and your loved one. Avoid stressful encounters such as arguing, criticizing one another, over-correcting their mistakes as that could lead to their self-confidence to diminish. Instead, do not be afraid to show interest, express support in their successes, learning to communicate via non-verbal cues, enjoying some private time in contemplation, and paying attention to emotional cues.
As great as those tips are, it is important to note that there is still the physical aspect of the caring process that needs to be addressed before you can safely watch over an Alzheimer’s patient.
Remember that Alzheimer’s disease can worsen over time. Therefore, initial safety measures are key to avoid any unnecessary mishaps from developing during random moments under your care. One of the main issues that affect people with Alzheimer’s is their sudden impulse to make rash decisions that could otherwise lead them to potential danger. This behaviour could also lead to a sudden breakdown of memory when performing basic manoeuvres that, again, could lead to injury. Thus, these are important things to consider before bringing home a patient with Alzheimer’s:
Handlebars on every important location
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic sickness that can only worsen over time. However, the symptoms of the disease could randomly dissipate for a couple of hours or days before coming back in full force soon after. That is why it is important to install as much grab bars or handlebars in every location that is important to your loved one. A sudden slip or accident could cause them to fall and injure themselves severely in the process. In addition, the severity of Alzheimer’s might cause them to forget what they were doing in that exact moment which would cause them to go into a panic and slip.
This is most crucial in places such as the shower, toilet, stairs, and kitchen.
Store away hazardous items from reach
A loved one with Alzheimer’s is no different from a child when it comes to hazard care. Although an Alzheimer’s riddled loved one may not initially think to bring out a knife to see what it is like to cut themselves, they are still under the threat that they might forget what they are doing and, by impulse, drop the knife which could lead them to get cut.
Always remember to store any and all hazardous and dangerous items such as knives, chemicals, power tools, anything sharp, and electrical appliances.
You may need to child-lock the items for safekeeping.
Catalogue every item in the house that could potentially be hazardous and remove them
Some items that should pose no immediate threat may be considered a problem then it comes to dealing with a patient. Fake fruits and vegetables can a problem for those that have trouble discerning the difference between a real one to a fake. As such, it is best to avoid decorations where such an action could incur.
Mark glass doors and furniture to avoid any unnecessary accidents or blind crashes
Large glass materials may not be as obvious to an Alzheimer’s patient as to other people. There will always be a risk that they could start running straight into the glass potentially injuring themselves from the shattered remains of the window or door.
Avoid leaving vehicles including bikes open for easy access
Advanced forms of dementia may result in your loved one choosing to impulse take a ride in a car or a bike to get to another place that they suddenly desire. However, the impact of their disease could potentially cause them to forget what they are doing suddenly while in the middle of the road. This could lead to a horrifying accident and as such, should be avoided at all costs. Forego any driving privileges they may initially have should they be diagnosed with the sickness.
Always have a form of light readily available during moments of restlessness
Everyone gets that sudden impulse wherein they cannot get to sleep and would instead walk around the house until they get tired. However, that is a potential safety hazard for those with Alzheimer’s as they could get confused with their surroundings and crash into random walls or furniture that could lead them to get injured in the process.
Avoid loud noises especially phones
Loud sounds are known to trigger people suffering from Alzheimer’s into panicking as that could arise sudden suspicion from them. As such, it is always best to avoid blasting away heavy music within their vicinity to prevent them from going to panic.
It is also important to not let them come in contact with a phone as they may be the target of a potential scammer since they are at their most vulnerable.
Cover any and all unused electrical plugs and wires
Sudden impulses could result in the patient deciding to jam something in the socket due to confusion. This could lead to a large electrical discharge that could potentially be fatal to the patient in question. Close up the plugs by covering it with tape or any form cover to prevent accidents from happening.
Install smoke alarms and/or carbon monoxide detectors
A rash decision could lead them to leave the gas stove or the car running without considering the deadly implications that could happen to both the patient, yourself, and any loved one within the area.
It would be best to install alarms that have a sensor that can contact you directly in case of an emergency. This is to prevent any emergencies from aggravating should be away during an incident.
Lastly, do not be afraid to install CCTV cameras or baby monitors
An Alzheimer’s patient is prone to wandering off from place to place. As such, it is imperative that you keep an eye out for them as much as possible. However, that is something that can be difficult to maintain 24/7. That is why you should consider installing some CCTV cameras or baby monitors to keep an overwatch of the patient’s whereabouts and their actions.
This could prevent them from doing something rash that could otherwise lead to injury.
Preventing Alzheimer’s from Developing or Spreading
Unfortunately, there is still no known cure for the disease as of this writing. The science behind the illness is too varied and too complex to fully diverge a proper solution as to how to overcome this crippling disorder.
However, science has discovered methods in which you can help prevent the spread of the disease and even stop it from developing should you apply these at an early age.
Exercise has been strongly linked with the decreased spread of the disease. The physical activity of a moderate or intense level exercise can be enough to hinder the progress of the biological symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from developing. The act of exercising causes our cognitive functions to jog off some “rusts” that are forming in our brain and, instead, improves those functions which would delay the formation of the plaques or entanglements of our brain.
Dr. Steen Hasselbach, a professor from the University of Copenhagen, conducted a study on the effects of exercise on people with a diagnosed mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the participants was told to exercise at least 3 times a week for a total of 16 weeks, while the other group was told to continue on without any physical regimens. Those who were asked to exercise must achieve a moderate to intense level of physical activity that would result in their routine reaching 70% to 80% of their heart rate.
The results had shown that those who exercised exhibited fewer symptoms compared to those who were stuck resting. Some symptoms that were halved were mood changes, depression, and anxiety. In addition, memory, learning, language, mental speed, and other cognitive functions were all tested with better overall results going in favour of those that exercised.
Although the act of exercising to a moderate or intense level may seem challenging to those who are at an older age, it is still important that a degree of exercise should be done to prevent the build-up of the disease. You can start a modified training regimen that is catered towards their age and condition and work to improve until they reach a level that can satisfy their 70% or 80% heart rate.
It is vital to commit to a certain level of intensity when working out to prevent the spread of the disease, however, the act of getting out of the house and interacting with people can also boost the patient in preventing the effects of mood-related symptoms from developing.
Although the disease has been known to be the end of the road for a person, evolution in science and modern medicine has shown that there is more to life despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A cure may not be available at this very moment but there are various ways to prevent the disease from developing at a rapid pace. In addition, genetic testing can flag risk genes that could potentially cause the person to exhibit symptoms before it even happens which could further decrease the likelihood of the disease from spreading.
However, this progressive disease should not be left unmanaged as more people are getting diagnosed as the days go by. As such, it is important that we show our support for them both physically, mentally, and emotionally to prevent them from being depressed by their sickness.
Remember that despite the disease, they are still the same important loved ones that we cherish. The problems that will arise from being diagnosed are not their fault but rather the impulse created by the foreign disease embedded in their minds. Love each other tightly and always understand their plight.
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