What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a fatal, progressive and degenerative disease that destroys brain cells. It is the most common form of dementia and the 6th leading cause of death for people in the United States.
Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified the disease in 1906. He described the two hallmarks of the disease: "plaques," which are numerous tiny, dense deposits scattered throughout the brain that become toxic to brain cells at excessive levels, and "tangles," which interfere with vital processes, eventually choking off the living cells. When brain cells degenerate and die, the brain markedly shrinks in some regions.
Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms include having difficulty remembering things, making decisions and performing everyday activities. These changes can affect the way a person feels and acts. There is currently no way to stop the disease, but current research is improving the way we provide care and pushing us closer to reaching a cure.
How does Alzheimer's disease progress?
Alzheimer's disease typically follows certain stages that cause changes in the person's and family's lives. Because the disease affects each individual differently, the symptoms, the order in which they appear and the duration of each stage vary from person to person. In most cases, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms of each stage may overlap, often making the move from one stage to another quite subtle. The duration of the disease is usually seven to ten years but may be much longer for some people.
Is Alzheimer's disease the same as dementia?
Dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms that result when the brain is damaged by disease, injury, or illness. These symptoms can include a decline and loss of memory, concentration, judgment and the ability to communicate, learn and problem solve.
What are related dementias?
- Related dementias include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia (including Pick's disease), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Lewy body dementia.
- Each of the related dementias has unique aspects but all share common symptoms: gradual and ongoing decline of short term and long term memory, changes in language abilities, mood and behavior, judgment and reasoning, all of which make it impossible over time to perform simple tasks.
- Dementia eventually affects all aspects of a person's life, including how the person thinks, feels, acts and reacts to his or her environment.
- Currently, there is no known cure for these diseases but studies show that lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of the disease.
- Researchers are confident that within seven to ten years there will be treatments that target the disease process itself, not just the symptoms.
- Dementia is commonly diagnosed in people 65 and older, but mounting evidence suggests it can begin to develop well before signs appear, even as early as age 40.
Can depression bring on symptoms like those in Alzheimer's disease?
Depression can have symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease and can occur simultaneously with Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to see a doctor if these symptoms are present. Depression can often be treated successfully.
Can the family doctor diagnose Alzheimer's disease?
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease requires a comprehensive assessment. Family doctors are often able to do this assessment during a series of office visits, or he or she may refer the patient to a memory clinic or specialist, such as a geriatrician or neurologist. You can contact your local Alzheimer Society to find professionals in your community.
Where do I turn for support?
Prestige Senior Living hosts an Education and Empowerment lecture series throughout the year that brings experts to our assisted living communities for Alzheimer’s educational seminars. We also offer support groups at various Prestige Senior Living locations that provide families an opportunity to come together and share their individual experiences with the disease.
There are many other organizations dedicated to providing education, resources and support for families and persons living with a dementia-related illness, including the National Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
What is the best treatment for Alzheimer’s disease dementia?
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia disorders, people living with dementia can still lead a comfortable and purposeful life. The best way to help your loved one transition through this process is to be aware of the changes they are going through, and make adjustments to your care approach so that you can meet their needs at every stage.
Prestige Care has developed an innovative memory care program called Expressions. Our program is designed to help memory-challenged residents stay active and engaged. We feel that the best way to promote a quality life for individuals with memory-loss is to know their unique experiences and structure their treatment plan around it. Our compassionate and friendly staff make it a priority to learn every resident’s life story as well as 100 unique things about them. This enables us to personalize and tailor the services we provide. We build relationships with our residents based on trust, empathy, support and humor, always focusing on them and not their disease.
We are constantly improving our practices to adapt to new Alzheimer’s research and innovations in care. We align ourselves with experts in the field of Alzheimer’s, such as internationally recognized author and speaker, David Troxel, to continually provide ongoing training and education for our devoted staff and families.
To learn more about our Expressions Memory Care Program, visit one of our Prestige Senior Living locations today.
The information in this site is not presented as a substitute for informed medical advice. Please see your doctor or other qualified health-care provider for more information about your personal situation.