November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It is a time designated for reflection, receiving information and the importance of finding breakthroughs. This national awareness month was appointed 25 years ago and research has come far since then but still has a mountain to climb.
A German physician named Alois Alzheimer identified this disease in 1907. Today, it is estimated that 16 million people have Alzheimer’s disease worldwide and 4.5 million are American. It has been discovered that as people live longer, more will suffer from the disease. People over 65 are most frequently affected by Alzheimer’s, however the disease has been diagnosed in people as young as 35.
The causes of Alzheimer’s Disease is not known and unfortunately, there is no cure. Plenty of research is performed everyday by drug companies, medical facilities and universities. One day a cure may be found.
There are several websites containing information about the disease, including: Alzheimer’s Association, The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, About.com: Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist to help recognize the difference between normal memory and lifestyle changes, and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Memory loss Forgetting recently learned information is a common sign of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and cannot recall the information later.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks It is difficult to plan or complete everyday tasks. One may lose track of steps involved in preparing a meal or playing a familiar game.
- Problems with language Often simple words are forgotten and unusual words are substituted, making speech or writing hard to understand.
- Disorientation to time and place One can become lost in their own neighborhood, forget where they are and not remember how to get back.
- Poor or decreased judgement Sometimes dressing inappropriately for the weather or showing poor judgement, such as giving large sums of money to strangers, are signs for Alzheimer’s.
- Problems with abstract thinking Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty performing mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.
- Misplacing things One may put things in unusual places, such as an iron in the freezer or a watch in the sugar bowl.
- Changes in mood or behavior Rapid mood swings may be shown for no apparent reason, such as calm to tears.
- Changes in personality Extreme confusion, suspicion, dependence or fearfulness may indicate a person has dementia.
- Loss of initiative A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.
Alzheimer’s Disease maybe hard to diagnose, but with the help of doctors, such as, a neurologist, geriatrician and neuropsychologist, they can arrive at an accurate diagnosis together.
In order to meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s Disease, the ability to hold a job or volunteer position or fulfill responsibilities has been affected. A person’s level of functioning has had a significant decline.
If you are concerned about memory changes for yourself or someone you love, call 1-866-ALZ-4199 and speak to a professional. Currently, there is no cure but drug and non-drug treatments may help with some symptoms.
“Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia,” an excerpt from alz.org.