Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease which affects the part of the brain responsible for memory, judgement, and cognitive skills. A lot of people mix Alzheimer's disease with dementia and think that it is the same disease. Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a term that includes a lot of diseases that are associated with memory and cognitive skill loss. The WHO estimates that there are 47.5 million people affected by dementia with 7.7 million new cases every year. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia and contributes between 60-70% of the cases.
Alzheimer's disease is not a communicable disease, and its risk increases with age. There are other factors that influence risk which include:
- Family history with the disease.
- Genetic changes, which explains some of the cases that happen for those around the age 40.
- Obesity which is directly related to high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and diabetes.
- Concussions and head injuries.
Alzheimer's disease is a slow progressing disease having a prognosis that can range from 3-9 years. Understanding the different stages of the disease and the patient's behavior during these stages is important for family and caregivers.
Alzheimer's tends to be discovered by coincidence after some mental disturbances such as frequent short term memory loss, difficulty in talking and expressing oneself, forgetting names of family or friends, and some confusion.
In the middle stage, the symptoms become more severe and difficult on the patient and their family. Patients experience greater difficulty remembering both short term and long term memories, more confusion in many situations, difficulty with speech, and doing day to day personal activities such as showering. In this stage patients need continuous assistance.
Here, patients have extreme difficulty with speaking, poor ability to think, and become more abusive, anxious, or paranoid. Patients would need constant assistance for simple tasks such as eating walking.
Early diagnosis is important for preparing family and friends of the patient for what to expect and how to deal with the disease. Currently there is not much that can be done to stop the disease, but there are ways to slow down the progression and ease the symptoms. Understanding and patience from family and friends towards the patient as well as others is also very important and a key to a strong support system.
The Palestine Hospital family wishes you and your loved ones health and happiness.