Alzheimer’s is one of the most common causes of dementia. The prevalence of this disease is high among people who are 65 or above. By the time the person reaches 85 years or above, 25-50% will show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, the risk of developing this disease increases after every 5 years. If the treatment is not managed properly, it may get worse as the patient ages. Your doctor will advise you medications to slow down the symptoms. Most importantly, it is essential to speak to your doctor to know what will work for you.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
Majorly, a combination of genetic changes and lifestyle factors are to be blamed. Though the exact cause of developing Alzheimer’s is unknown, but it is true that this disease affects one’s brain. It destroys the brain cells completely, thereby shrinking the size of the brain.
On examining an Alzheimer’s patient, the doctors witness 2 types of abnormalities:
- Tangles: The brain cells require a support/transport system to transfer the nutrients and other materials, which is possible only if a protein called “Tau” is functioning properly. If a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s, this tau protein gets abnormally tangled in the brain cells, thereby damaging the cells.
- Plaques: These clusters of protein are also responsible for destroying the brain cells.
Know its Symptoms
Confusion and memory loss are the major symptoms. However, the red signals to watch out for are:
- Disorientation along with mood and behavioral changes
- Deepening confusion about life events
- Disorientation of time and place
- Unfounded suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
- Increasing memory loss and behavioral changes
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking
Are there any Risk Factors?
- Down syndrome: Persons suffering from this disorder are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, though the symptoms might appear after 10-20 years.
- Age: The risk of developing Alzheimer’s is significantly high after 65 years. It may happen that people with genetic changes might show symptoms during their 30s.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Smoking, Obesity, high blood pressure, uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, lack of exercise are a few reasons that can take a toll on your heart and so increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
How to manage this disease?
Alzheimer's has three stages of progression i.e. mild, moderate and severe and help required for the patient may vary according to the stages. Not much is known about the cure of the disease, but if you see anyone in your family or your neighbor with any symptom of Alzheimer’s ensure that you immediately seek the doctors’ advice. As primary care physicians, you need to:
- Encourage that your loved one to be actively engaged in physical activities and keep a check on their stress levels and stamina.
- Engage them socially and maintain a safe and secure environment for them.
- Work on improving the cognitive skills of the patient.
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There is a requirement of a professionally trained physical attendant who will be able to assist the Alzheimer’s patient as well as their family members and develop a long-term treatment plan for their patient. The care/help is provided based on the condition of the patient that involves:
- Awareness: The foremost responsibility of an Alzheimer’s caregiver is to create awareness about the disease in the patient as well as the family members. The caregiver needs to have an understanding of the disease and how is it affecting the patient they care for.
- Basic Assistance: The help entirely depends on how far the disease has progressed. Assistance in bathing, grooming, dressing, and eating are common responsibilities that the caregiver needs to fulfill. Most importantly, the physical safety of patient needs to be managed properly as Alzheimer’s can cause erratic behavior, a tendency to wander, impaired motor skills and coordination.
- Life Management: For a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is necessary to develop a routine as well as a proper schedule to manage their life properly.
- Emotional Support: This is a rough phase and the whole family goes through an emotional turmoil. The caregiver needs to increase the social engagement of the patient to create a positive impact on their life. Emotional support and friendship are the best gifts that the caregiver can provide.