Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly destroys a person’s memory. It slows the ability to think and to perform simple daily tasks. Those with Alzheimer’s may become completely dependent on others for their care. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia especially for people after the age 60 with five percent of adults between ages 65 to 75 and almost half of the adult population over the age of 85 may suffer from the disease.
Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s dementia:
- Frequently asking the same questions
- Repeating the same stories word-for -word
- Forgetting simple tasks such as cooking, or getting dressed
- Inability to balance the check book or pay bills
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Neglecting to bathe, wearing the same clothing or mix-matching clothing
- Symptoms of moderate stage dementia:
- Increased memory loss or confusion
- Not recognizing family members
- Difficulty completing routine tasks such as getting dressed
- Delusions and paranoia
- Wandering away from home
- Impulsive behavior
- Symptoms in the severe stage of dementia:
- Problems with communication
- Not able to recognize self or family members
- Difficulty swallowing resulting in weight loss
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed when family members recognize some of the early symptoms of memory loss. A doctor will evaluate the patient based on questions concerning medical history, and changes in behavior or personality. The doctor may conduct brain scans such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. The patient may be asked to perform simple memory tests, counting, solving problems or using language skills. Tests of blood, urine, and spinal fluid may also be performed. The combination of tests will help with the diagnosis.
If you recognize the symptoms in a family member do not hesitate to have them evaluated by a professional that specializes in neurology. Recognizing early signs is important because AD is a complex disease and the earlier is it detected the sooner treatment can begin.
Although, there is no cure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs to treat Alzheimer’s dementia. For mild to moderate symptoms, rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil may help maintain mental abilities and control specific behavioral symptoms for a period of time. Memantine is designed to help moderate to severe symptoms and donepezil is used for severe symptoms.