What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, neurodegenerative form of dementia. It is the most common form of dementia and accounts for an estimated 60-80% of cases. Alzheimer’s occurs when nerve cells in the brain die, causing problems with thinking, remembering and reasoning. According to Bringham and Women’s hospital an estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
Who has Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is most prevalent in older adults. There are cases of people younger than 65 who have been diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s but the vast majority of cases are in people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s affects people worldwide.
What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
The signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s can often mimic those of other forms of dementia and therefore require a careful and thorough exam by a physician. The signs and combination of symptoms are also different from patient to patient however the most common symptoms for Alzheimer’s are:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Inability to solve problems or plan ahead as was a normal activity previously
- Misplacing things and being unable to deduct where they may have been placed
- Poor judgment
- The inability to “find the right word” or sudden problems with speaking
- The inability to grasp the time or place
- Difficulty completing regular tasks that were managed with ease in the past
- The inability to judge distance or perspective
- Sudden or drastic changes in mood or personality
- A withdrawal from social activities and obligations
- Emotional apathy
What causes Alzheimer’s?
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. Intense research has been underway for many years and has since resulted in several suspected causes including:
- Age and family history
- Abnormal protein deposits found in the brain
- Environmental factors
How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?
There is no single test that can determine if an individual has Alzheimer’s, diagnosis requires a careful medical evaluation that would include:
- A complete medical history
- Medical and neurological exams
- Tests to rule out other forms of dementia
By conducting a thorough series of exams physicians and specialists can diagnose probable Alzheimer’s with approximately 90% accuracy. Tests and procedures may include some or all of the following:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-rays
- Genetic testing
- Mental status testing
- And more…..
These tests may be completed over time to establish how a person’s memory is changing over time. Early detection of Alzheimer’s is beneficial to providing an early diagnosis and the start of treatment as well as assisting family members and caregivers with establishing a plan for the future and participation in clinical trials. If you or someone you know is showing early signs of dementia, seek the care and evaluation of a physician or specialist.
What treatments are available?
Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and no way to stop it’s progression or reverse the effects, there are treatments in clinical trial which may temporarily slow the pace of worsening symptoms to improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
There are also medication and non-medication treatments available to assist in managing some of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease including insomnia, depression, memory loss and confusion.
Caregivers should seek help to understand what can be done to assist with managing the disease. They vary from person to person but may include:
- Daily activities that provide structure, routine and meaning for the individual
- Physical and social activity
- Proper nutrition
- Maintaining some level of independence and responsibility for the individual as safety allows
- Removing all harmful safety risks from the individual’s environment
- Setting up cues to help the individual accomplish desired tasks
The search for new treatments to stop, slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s is underway on a worldwide scale and momentum has been building for several years. Support for research is absolutely critical since new drugs take several years to produce, require large-scale trials and may not work as hoped causing modifications that delay any release. The McCourt Foundation appreciates the support of our donors and hopes that you will consider making a donation today. Every dollar counts as we race for change.
The McCourt Foundation is here to support those impacted by Alzheimer’s. The funds we raise go towards Alzheimer’s research and to help improve the quality of life for patients, families and caregivers. We hope you will read more about our Educational Updates and will consider attending upcoming events to connect with other supporters and learn from our experience and research. You may also find value in the following resources:
- The McCourt Foundation on Facebook
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital - Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment
- Alzheimer’s Association
- National Institute on Aging
- Clinical Trials
- Science Daily
- Boston Globe January 15, 2013: Funding Approved for Alzheimer's Trial