Where did it come from, anyhow, this “Alzheimer’s” that has suddenly invaded our consciousness? Part 2

At Blue Sky Therapy, we’re concerned about the total wellness of our clients. Among the diseases that threaten that wellness is Alzheimer’s.  In our last blog, we promised to share some of the symptoms of Alzheimers, as the experts know them.  So here are some of those signs:

One of the most trusted resources for the disease is the Website www.alz.org/, offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.  Here are some of the things the Association wants you to know:

  • Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
  • Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. It usually develops slowly and gradually gets worse as brain function declines and brain cells eventually wither and die. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is fatal, and currently, there is no cure.

The fight against Alzheimer’s involves neuroscience research efforts that are under way to develop effective treatments and ways to prevent the disease. Researchers are also working to develop better ways to care for affected people and better ways to support their families, friends and caregivers.

The Internet is a valuable source of information. Just type the word “Alzheimer’s” into your browser, and you’ll find a wealth of knowledge about the symptoms and treatments for the disease. For instance, you’ll find a comparison of the signs of Alzheimer’s against the normal signs of aging, like these:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information, or important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.  A  typical age-related change: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers, follow a familiar recipe or keep track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. A  typical age-related change:  Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with Alzheimer's can find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work, or remembering how to play a favorite game. A  typical age-related change: Sometimes needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4. Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.  A typical age-related change, for example, would be getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving. A typical age-related change: Vision changes not related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock"). A typical age-related change: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7.  Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to retrace their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they accuse others of stealing. A typical age-related change: Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

8. Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. A typical age-related change:  Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from social activities, work projects, or sports. They may have trouble remembering how to complete a favorite hobby, and they may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. A typical age-related change: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality
People with Alzheimer's can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends, or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. A typical age-related change: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Research into the disease is ongoing.  In our next blog, we’ll talk about the treatment possibilities for Alzheimer’s.