A starter guide to understanding Alzheimer's disease and tips to make your life more Alzheimer friendly

By Dr. Shamsher Dwivedee in Neurosciences , Neurology

Sep 20 , 2023 | 3 min read

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain condition and is characterized by memory loss, a decline in cognitive function, and impaired daily functioning. It is the most common cause of dementia, and usually affects older adults. It is associated with the build-up of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, leading to the deterioration of mental abilities and, eventually, impairs the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Alzheimer's disease is not a recent discovery. In fact, its history dates back over a century. The condition was first identified by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 when he examined the brain of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Dr. Alzheimer's groundbreaking work led to the understanding of the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer's disease: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Over the years, research has revealed more about the disease, though there is still much to learn.

This Alzheimer's Day, we aim to explore the condition by delving into its history, symptoms, risk factors, the importance of early diagnosis, and some practical tips for creating an Alzheimer's-friendly home.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Understanding the symptoms of Alzheimer's is needed for early detection and intervention. The disease progresses in stages, and its symptoms usually become more severe over time. Common symptoms include:

Memory loss

One of the earliest signs is forgetfulness, especially recent events and conversations.


Individuals may become confused about time, place, and people.

Difficulty with communication

Language problems such as trouble finding words or repeating oneself are common.

Poor judgment

Individuals may make poor decisions or struggle with problem-solving.

Mood and personality changes

Mood swings, irritability, and personality changes can occur.

Difficulty with daily tasks

Performing familiar tasks like dressing or cooking can become challenging.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease:

  • Age: Advanced age is the primary risk factor. The risk significantly increases after the age of 65.
  • Family history: A family history of Alzheimer's raises the risk.
  • Genetics: Certain gene mutations are associated with a higher risk.
  • Cardiovascular health: Conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are linked to a greater risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: A poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is crucial for several reasons:

  • Treatment: While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, early interventions may help manage symptoms and potentially slow the disease's progression.
  • Planning: Early diagnosis allows individuals and families to plan for the future, including legal and financial matters.
  • Quality of life: Knowing the diagnosis early enables individuals to make the most of their cognitive function while it's still relatively intact.
  • Clinical trials: Early diagnosis facilitates participation in clinical trials for potential treatments and therapies.

Creating an Alzheimer's-Friendly Home

Adapting the living environment is essential for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer's. Here are some tips:

  • Safety first: Remove tripping hazards, install handrails, and use non-slip mats to prevent accidents.
  • Clear organization: Label drawers and cabinets, making it easier to find essential items.
  • Routine: Stick to a regular daily schedule to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort.
  • Memory aids: Use calendars, reminder notes, and digital devices to help with memory and appointments.
  • Reduce clutter: Minimize distractions and simplify the living space to reduce confusion.
  • Engagement: Encourage cognitive stimulation with puzzles, games, and activities.
  • Colour contrast : Use colour contrast to help individuals distinguish between objects. For example, use brightly coloured plates and utensils on a white tablecloth.
  • Secure hazardous items: Lock away potentially dangerous items such as cleaning supplies, medications, sharp objects, and firearms to prevent accidents.
  • Install grab bars and handrails: Installing bars and handrails in bathrooms and along hallways helps provide support and prevent falls.
  • Visible signage: Label important rooms, such as the bathroom and bedroom, with clear and large signs or pictures to assist with navigation.
  • Effective lighting: Ensure well-lit spaces with consistent lighting. Install nightlights to prevent confusion and disorientation at night.
  • Familiar items: Keep familiar and cherished items visible, such as family photos and personal mementos, to evoke positive memories and a sense of security.
  • Quiet and calm: Minimize noise and distractions to create a calm environment. Use soft, soothing colours and avoid loud or busy patterns in decor.
  • Gardening and outdoor space: If possible, create a safe and well-maintained outdoor space for relaxation and gentle activities like gardening.
  • Caregiver support: Caregivers must have access to respite care and support services to prevent burnout and provide the best possible care.
  • Regular safety assessments: Periodically evaluate the home environment for potential hazards or needed adjustments, as the individual's condition may change over time.

Alzheimer's disease is a challenging condition, but with early diagnosis, a supportive living environment, and comprehensive management, individuals and their families can enhance their quality of life and navigate the journey with greater understanding and resilience. On this Alzheimer's Day, let us raise awareness and support those affected by this disease.