It is inevitable that eventually each of us will grow old and begin to face more and more health problems as our age rises. Elderly people are challenged by many illnesses and diseases that unfortunately, are incurable. One disease that becomes more common as people age is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s a common cause and a form of dementia and can severely damage a patient’s cognitive functions and can ultimately cause death. Living with Alzheimer’s disease can be saddening for both the sufferer and the family. Family and friends will find it very hard to cope when a loved one begins slipping away and losing memory of who they are.
Alzheimer’s disease comes from the last name of a neuro-psychiatrist from Germany, Alois Alzheimer. The disease was first diagnosed when a woman in her early fifties began experience memory problems. “Alzheimer recounted the now famous case of Auguste D.’ a 51-year-old housewife who had been failing mentally for several years. As a result she had been admitted to his care in the Asylum for the Insane and Epileptic” (Maurer and Maurer 1). After her death, he continued to examine her brain to find causes and explanations for her behavior. He discovered “classic neuro-pathological signs of plaques and tangles” (Maurer and Maurer 1). “Plaques are chains of amino acids that are pieces of the amyloid precursor proteintangles are aggregates of the protein tau” (Secko 1). As plaques develop they produce tangles and “these two abnormalities ultimately lead to loss of cognitive function” (Secko 1) Alois Alzheimer’s research has allowed many specialist to conclude that the apolipoproetein E gene may contribute to the disease.
The occurrence and deposits of these proteins in the brain and in the body may ultimately lead to whether or not someone will be susceptible and diagnosed with Alzheimer disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is rising at a very high rate. “The number of new cases per year is estimated at 360,000 equating to 980 new cases per day or 40 new cases every hour” (Cummings and Cole 1) This evidence shows that an increasing number of people will discover the effects of a cognitive impairment that will most likely be due to Alzheimer’s disease. As people age, their risk of being diagnosed with this disease increases significantly. “The prevalence of AD double every five years after the age of 601% among those 60- to 64-years old to up to 40% of those aged 85 years and older” and “is more common in women than men by a ration of 1.2 to 1.5” (Cummings and Cole 1). With the growing number of people becoming diagnosed, and experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, we must begin to take precautions and somehow attempt to gain knowledge of how the disease can be better treated, and ultimately prevented.
Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease usually end up in nursing homes or hospice care centers, because, as the disease evolves to its later stages, the patient typically becomes unable to care for themselves and is required to have around-the-clock care. Nursing care is very expensive and can be estimated to cost “approximately $47,000 per patient per year” (Cummings and Cole 1). Patients are plagued with not only memory loss, but also abnormalities of the motor system, problems assessing new information, trouble speaking and disorientation. “Patients with AD usually survive 7-10
years after onset of symptomsand typically die from bronchitis or pneumonia” (Cummings and Cole 2).
Dementia, memory loss, and cognitive breakdown are some of the major signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease damages brain cells, which in turn, impairs the memory and leads to loss of memory and the ability to perform tasks. The slow elimination of cells weakens the brain’s ability to remember things, perform normal daily tasks, and also affects behavioral, personality and psychiatrically problems. Complications become increasingly difficult as more and more cells weaken and deteriorate. In the first stages, forgetfulness and the lack of enjoyment or interest in hobbies are prevalent in the patient. Following this, the patient’s ability to perform normal daily tasks, such as shopping or managing finances, can being to be problematic. As Alzheimer’s disease takes over, sufferers begin to have difficulty with their speech item recognition, abstract thinking, and memory.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are some things family, friends, and doctors can do to help the patient escape the complications with the disease. Keeping the patient occupied with brain stimulating activities, such as crossword puzzles, math problems, and word games can allow the person to keep their brain functioning and curb the serious problems of Alzheimer’s disease. “Asking the patient to perform serial subtractions of 7s (backward from 100 to 65), to spell the word world’ backward and to produce verbal word lists, such as names of animals or items in a grocery store, are other ways to test executive functioning and abstract thinking” (Santacruz and Swagerty 2).
There are many ways to test for cognitive impairments and forms of dementia that can eventually result in Alzheimer’s disease. “Physical examination should includespeech (aphasia), motor memory (apraxia), sensory recognition (agnosia), and complex behavior sequencing (executive functioning)” (Santacruz and Swagerty 2). Item recognition exercises, such as asking patients to identify an object by only feeling it, or asking them to demonstrate the purpose or use of an object is critical in testing their sensory recognition and motor memory abilities. Speech problems can be tested by monitoring the “frequent use of vague terms such as thing’ or it'” (Santacruz and Swagerty 2). It is vital to examine and assess these factors when elderly people begin to become at-risk for the disease. Working with patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can ultimately be of much help to their health and their complications in the later stages of the disease.
Many times Alzheimer’s disease is overlooked, when in reality this disease can be just as serious a medical problem as cancer. Alzheimer’s disease, its complications, and its effects continue to threaten more people each year. “The population of patients with AD will nearly quadruple in the next 50 years if the current trend continues” (Cummings and Cole 1). This astounding figure should encourage people to become aware of the disease and its signs and symptoms so that they are able to seek help and medical treatment in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in attempt to live and cope with this condition.
Cummings, Jeffrey L., Cole, Greg. “Alzheimer Disease.” Journal of the American Medical Association. May 2002: 287-18. Health Source. EBSCOhost. Utica College Lib. 15 Apr 2005. .
Maurer, K., and Maurer, U. “Alzheimer: The Life of a Physician and the Career of a Disease.” Journal of the American Medical Association. February 2005: 293-6. Health Source. EBSCOhost. Utica College Lib. 15 Apr 2005. .
Santacruz, K. S., and Swagerty, D. “Early Diagnosis of Dementia.” American Family Physician. February 2001: 63-4. Health Source. EBSCOhost. Utica College Lib.
15 Apr 2005. .
Secko, David. “Alzheimer’s Disease: Genetic Variables and Risk.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. March 2005: 172-5.