Monday, November 21, 2011

November: Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

By Karen Whittier, Embrace Activism


A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s   condemns the patient and their loved ones to a tragic demise. A form of this disease, early on-set, has affected my extended family and it is truly a tragedy.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a form of dementia. The risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as dementia, increases with age, but it’s important to note Alzheimer’s is not considered a normal consequence of aging. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, neurologic disease that impacts mental ability to such a degree normal, daily living activities cannot be done. Three typical, cognitive functions impacted are: remembering, reasoning, and planning. Additional areas that may be compromised are communication ability, mood and personality.

Although there is no cure at this time for Alzheimer’s there are treatments available that can slow its progressive nature, and most importantly for me, improve the quality of life for the Alzheimer’s patient as well as assisting and supporting their care givers. Therefore, recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease are critical. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease           Signs (examples)
Memory loss                                               Frequently forgetting new information
Problems with familiar tasks                        Getting confused while cooking or playing a game
Problems with language                              Forgetting simple words or using wrong words
Disorientation to time and place                  Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
Poor judgment                                           Dressing inappropriately for the weather
Problems with abstract thought                   Trouble with simple math
Misplacing things                                       Putting an iron in the freezer
Changes in mood and behavior                  Unusual bouts of anger or rapid mood swings
Changes in personality                               Becoming overly confused, suspicious, afraid,
                                                                or dependent
Loss of initiative                                        Lack of interest in usual activities

Before you get overly alarmed about your own mental state know it IS normal to occasionally do those listed above. If you routinely forget where you’ve parked…and can’t retrace your steps or if you’re consistently forgetting the names of those close to you then you might have cause for concern. It is worth noting however, that other forms of dementia can exhibit similar symptoms. Some of these other types of dementia are, in fact reversible, so it is imperative to be evaluated by a knowledgeable health care professional. 

As mentioned earlier, currently there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Early detection and diagnosis can give the AD patient the time to get affairs set, financially and legally; to prepare for the needed care, both short and long-term; and feel they have some control over the course of their life. Early diagnosis may also open up participation in clinical trials. Not surprisingly, AD patients can suffer from depression that manifests itself in insomnia and a decline in overall health. Depression can and should be treated. Also, it is important for AD patients and their caregivers to work with professionals to insure quick and easy, yet nutritious meals are made. In addition, engaging in regular exercise will improve the general health and wellness of an AD patient. Anxiety and fear can overwhelm an AD patient. Yoga focusing on the breath can help reduce these feelings in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Laughter Yoga can be used as a form of exercise as well as easing depression.

Caregivers for AD patients are probably the closest thing we have to angels on Earth. Burnout is a common condition for caregivers though. Caregivers should develop a network of support. Information on what caregivers need can be found at Help Guide.

No one knows the future, Alzheimer’s disease reinforces the call to live each day as if it were your last.

Empower yourself!
Health, Wellness & CURES!!

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The following websites provided information for this article: ALZAlzheimer's Defined, NIH Alzheimers
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