What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The disease is named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first identified it in 1906. It affects more than 5 million Americans, including one in nine people over the age of 65. It's not always clear what causes Alzheimer's, but there are some risk factors, including age and genetics. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults; about 5 million people in the U.S. have it – including an estimated 200,000 Floridians – and it's expected to affect nearly 15 million Americans over age 65 by 2050.
The disease usually begins after age 60 but can develop earlier or later in life. It's not known what causes Alzheimer's disease, but research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for this condition; treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?
Symptoms include confusion and memory loss, which get worse over time. Other signs include difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with planning or solving problems and language difficulties (such as finding words). In severe cases, people may need help with basic activities of daily living like bathing, dressing and eating.
Some people with Alzheimer's disease do have symptoms at first, but they might be subtle. These include:
- Difficulty remembering recently learned information or new things
- Confusion about time or place
- Difficulty with planning or organizing
- Concentration problems
As the disease progresses, symptoms can become more severe. They include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life (for example, forgetting conversations)
- Problems with language (for example, forgetting words)
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
How to care for a person with Alzheimer's
What makes this disease so difficult for seniors is that it can progress quickly and has no cure. In fact, there's only one drug approved by the FDA that works to slow down its progression, but it must be taken daily and over time can have serious side effects. It's normal to be concerned about how to care for someone with Alzheimer's disease. However, there are many things you can do to help them maintain an enjoyable quality of life.
The following tips will help you provide the best care possible for your loved one with Alzheimer's:
1) Keep your home or residence clutter-free and organized so he or she doesn't become lost or disoriented. A good way to do this is by using labels on drawers, cabinets, doors and closets so he or she can find what they're looking for without difficulty.
2) Make sure that all family members and staff understand what to do if your loved one becomes lost or disoriented, such as calling 911 or taking him or her directly to a doctor's office if necessary. The more prepared everyone is for this possibility, the easier it will be for everyone involved!
3) Provide plenty of opportunities for exercise and social interaction with others who have similar interests (i.e., dancing classes). These activities not only keep older adults physically active but also help promote mental health through socialization opportunities as well!