Alzheimers Disease



Alzheimer’s Disease Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior (Internet). It is a degenerative disease affecting nerve cells of the frontal and temporal lobes of the cerebrum of the brain. The disease is the major cause of presenile dementia (i.e., the loss of mental faculties not associated with advanced age) and is thought to be the largest single cause of senile dementia as well (Britannica, 306). It causes the connections between cells to become ineffective and the cells themselves to shutdown and eventually die (Davies, 1). Alzheimer’s is a progressive, irreversible, fatal neurologic disorder that affects an estimated 4 million American adults. It is estimated by 2040,approximately 14 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Approximately 9% of the population older than 55 years and 20% of those older than 85 years have Alzheimer’s Disease. The duration of AD averages 2 to 10 years but can be up to 20 years. By 1992, Alzheimer’s Disease was the fourth leading cause of death among adults (more than 100,000 American deaths per year). It is projected that the number of people with Alzheimer’s Disease will triple in the next 50 years. This epidemic of dementia is not confined to sex, race, social, or economic class. The public knows this disorder as “senility”, although the term Alzheimer’s is becoming more common (Rosdahl, 1356). According to a quote from Hasselbring “ Alzheimer’s disease.” Medical Self-Care 53- 57,January-February, 1986, a 61-year-old woman in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease stated, “My mind goes to an empty and horrible place. When I come back, I’m in a room full of strangers. I fell so lost and afraid.” Many Alzheimer’s patients echo these sentiments. The disease is frightening and disabling (1356). Alois Alzheimer, a German neuropathologist, originally described the disease in 1906. In the autopsy of a 55-year-old patient who had died with severe dementia, Alzheimer noted the presence in the brain of two abnormalities (Britannica, 306). Recent studies have shown that in the autopsies of the brain of people who have died from Alzheimer’s, there is much higher concentration of aluminum than is normal (Weiner, 17). Accounting for about half of all dementia cases, Alzheimer’s is more common in certain groups. Women are at higher risk, so are those who have a first-degree relation with the disease, or a history of head trauma (RN magazine, 26). Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize that these symptoms indicate something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behavior is a normal part of the aging process; it isn’t. Or, symptoms may develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. Sometimes people refuse to act even when they know something is wrong. It’s important to see a physician when you recognize these symptoms. Only a physician can properly diagnose the person’s condition, and sometimes are reversible. Even if the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease, help is available to learn how to care for a person with dementia and where to find assistance. Ten warning signs to watch for are: (1) memory loss, (2) difficulty performing familiar tasks, (3) problems with language, (4) disorientation of time and place, (5) poor or decreased judgement, (6) problems with abstract thinking, (7) misplacing things, (8) changes in mood or behavior, (9) changes in personality, (10) loss of initiative (Internet). Typical problems that should alert us that a person needs some kind of help are repeated car accidents, getting lost, losing things and not recalling the previous day (Davidson, 13). Symptoms of the illness represent deficits in many areas of how a person remembers and thinks. For instance, problems with memory may be manifested as forgetting names, dates, places, whether a bill has been paid for, or something said over and over. Intellectual abilities are lost eventually. Reasoning with the affected person is no longer a successful way to understand and deal with his problems. Judgement about common everyday situations is drastically diminished. The individual’s capacity to express himself verbally gradually shrinks. Neither is he able to comprehend what others say to him. As the disease progresses, he may gradually lose the ability to speak. Psychiatric symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations can occur. The person can become anxious, restless, agitated, and may