Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and degenerative brain disorder that primarily affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease gradually impairs an individual's ability to carry out routine tasks, communicate, and maintain relationships.  Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that ends up causing problems with memory and recollection, thinking, and behavior. It progressively changes one's personality and creates a loss of judgment. 

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's?

Some of the first symptoms are loss of memory, other cognitive deficits, and disorientation. More advanced symptoms include forgetting the names of family members, not being able to do simple tasks, wandering off, becoming violent or fearful, and mood and personality changes. Things progressively get worse, until towards the end there is a total loss of self and an inability to control bodily functions. 

Key features and characteristics of Alzheimer's disease include:

  1. Memory Loss: Early symptoms often involve forgetfulness, particularly related to recent events, conversations, and appointments.
  2. Cognitive Decline: As the disease progresses, individuals may experience difficulties in reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. They may struggle with tasks that once were routine.
  3. Language Difficulties: Communication becomes increasingly challenging, with individuals struggling to find the right words, following or joining conversations, and repeating themselves.
  4. Disorientation and Confusion: People with Alzheimer's may become disoriented in time and space, getting lost even in familiar places.
  5. Mood and Behavior Changes: Behavioral changes can range from mood swings and apathy to increased irritability and aggression.
  6. Loss of Initiative: Individuals might lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, have difficulty initiating activities, or struggle to follow through with plans.
  7. Difficulty with Self-Care: As the disease progresses, individuals may have difficulty performing tasks related to personal hygiene, dressing, and eating.
  8. Worsening Cognitive Impairment: Over time, Alzheimer's disease leads to severe cognitive decline, making independent living impossible. The disease also affects the brain's ability to control basic bodily functions.
  9. Progressive Nature: Alzheimer's disease is progressive, meaning symptoms worsen gradually over time. The rate of progression varies from person to person.

The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not fully understood, but it involves complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The disease is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, including amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which interfere with normal brain function and lead to the death of brain cells.

Is there a cure for Alzheimer's?

At this point in time, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. There are certain medications available to help with memory loss, sleep changes, and behavioral changes.

What is the difference between someone who has natural, age-related memory loss and someone with Alzheimer's?

Here are some comparisons between a normal, age-related memory change and Alzheimer's memory changes. To learn more, check out this brochure on the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's from the Alzheimer's Association.

Normal, Age-Related Memory Changes Alzheimer's Memory Loss 
• forgets part of an experience • forgets whole experiences
• changing expressions • blank expressions
• can’t find important items • routinely places important items in odd places
• cancels a date with friends • withdraws from usual interests
• can’t find a recipe • can’t follow recipe directions
• briefly forgets conversation details • frequently forgets entire conversations
• often remembers later • rarely remembers later
• is usually able to follow written/spoken directions • is gradually unable to follow written/spoken directions
• is usually able to use notes • is gradually unable to use notes
• is usually able to care for self • is gradually unable to care for self


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