Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease

Picture of the brain areas: It is the cortex that makes us human -- our ability to plan, calculate, imagine and create. When the cortex of the brain function normally, it creates a person, someone with a particular pattern of feelings, beliefs, reactions and thoughts, and these transcend the purely physical. A working cortex produces an individual pattern of emotion, aspiration and experience that defines the character and the personality. Unfortunately, it is the cortex, this brain-cell layer half an inch(1.25cm) thick on the surface of the brain, that is most affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease, or more accurately, a group of disorders that results in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. It afflicts approximately 4 million Americans and as many as 15 million people worldwide. Research has also shown that Alzheimer's disease is more prevalent among women than among men, and this prevalence increases with age.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is not a disease itself but rather a group of symptoms that involve a loss of intellectual function severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Formerly called senility, dementia was once thought to be a normal and almost inevitable accompaniment of aging. Today many doctors and researchers believe that dementia occurs in the elderly only when they are afflicted with specific diseases or disorders. Some of these disorders include nutritional deficiencies, drug reactions, depression, thyroid disorders, and alcoholism. The dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease cannot be reversed, and this ultimately results in a loss of the ability to care for oneself.

The average person with Alzheimer's lives about 8 years beyond the time of the initial diagnosis, with some people living 20 years or more. However long the survival time, symptoms continue to worsen over the years, and the patient becomes increasingly susceptible to infections and other illness, which are often the direct cause of death.

Unlike various kinds of normal age-related memory impairment, the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease worsen over the years. The person with Alzheimer's disease soon cannot manage their daily work and social life. In addition to forgetfulness, the patient have problems with reasoning and judgment, as well as mood and behavioural changes.

Just how quickly the disease progresses can vary considerably from one person to the next. In the early stages, the patient may have trouble finding the right word, take longer to react, experience short-term memory loss, and have difficulties making mathematical calculations. She may or may not be aware that she has a problem handling these and other routine tasks. As the disease progress, the patient will have increasing difficulties with understanding and self-expression, and will exhibit marked disorientation, behavioural changes, repetitive actions, and impaired judgment. The patient will often seem lethargic and cold emotionally, having little memory of the recent past and not recognizing familiar people while still retaining a clear memory of distant times. In the final stage of the disease, the patient with Alzheimer's requires 24-hour care. She is apathetic, unaware of her state of cleanliness or dress, unable to communicate, and incontinent. She has little memory, either short-term or long-term. Eventually, many patients will assume a fetal position and gradually shut down their entire mind and body.

Currently there are no treatments available to cure or reverse the dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease. However, some of the symptoms of Alzhemier's -- including depression, insomnia and behavioural disturbances, can be managed with medications. Eating a balanced diet, getting proper health care, and engaging in regular physical exercise and social activity can make the condition more bearable.

Caring for your beloved with Alzheimer's disease is not an easy task. The utmost concern of the caregiver is keeping their loved ones safe. For example, some people with Alzheimer's disease can become feeble to the point of being at serious risk for falls. Every person with Alzheimer's disease is different, and the stage of your loved one's illness also is an important factor. However, it is always wise to take the necessary precautions to prevent any accidents from happening.

The home is where most accidents would happen, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. Keep all potentially dangerous utensils and appliances out of reach or under lock and key. Most falls occur in the bathroom than any other room of the house, so make sure all rugs and mats have slip-resistant backings, and consider having handrails or medical alarm installed. Medical Alarm can detect any falls at home -- so you can have peace of mind when you are at work. Also be sure to keep all potentially dangerous medications out of reach and switch off the heater when not in use.

Wandering is also very common in Alzheimer's disease. Random wandering occurs when a person moves about and does not know where he or she is going. In a secure area, this is not a problem. However, when people wander out in the street or in a hospital ward, they may cause problems for themselves and others. Thus it is advisable to have the Alzheimer patient to carry identification whenever possible, or better still, encourage them to wear medical alert bracelet inscribed "Memory Loss" or "Alzheimer's". The foremost consideration for managing the problem is always the person's safety. For more information about medical alarm, please refer to BrickHouse Security. 

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