What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in elderly people. Specifically, Alzheimer’s is a serious disease that kills brain cells, often resulting in severe memory loss and other impaired mental functions. It’s estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Most commonly, the disease is seen in those ages 65 and older, but it’s not unheard of for those of a younger age to be diagnosed.
Although a person can be genetically pre-disposed to develop Alzheimer’s disease, this is the case in only about 5% of patients.2 Alzheimer’s is believed to be caused by a number of factors, including a person’s environment and lifestyle factors that ultimately lead to the destruction of brain cells.
Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia
Many people don’t understand the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia. Specifically, it should be noted that Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Dementia itself simply refers to a decline in a person’s mental abilities—particularly later in life
There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but most doctors diagnose in three different stages for the sake of simplicity for their patients:
Early: The patient has few difficulties with memory and/or function
Mid: The patient now requires assistance from a caregiver
Late: Functions have become extremely limited and 24/7 care is required
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is greatly affected by the quality of care the person receives in addition to how early the disease is diagnosed. Those with early-stage Alzheimer’s can live a relatively normal life for 5 to 10 more years with the proper support from memory care services. On the other hand, those with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s may see faster progression of the disease.
Many people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (along with their families) have a hard time accepting such a diagnosis. They may find themselves wondering what they can do to limit the spread of the disease. Often times, the best thing that can be done is to receive dedicated memory care services, which will involve therapy to help preserve the brains functions for as long as possible.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s there are medications available that can help improve symptoms, including cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. However, the individual’s environment and level of care often has the largest impact on the success of such treatments; living in a safe environment and receiving memory care therapy is generally the best way to slow down the progression of this disease over time.