Alzheimer's and Dementia
Dementia is a disease that is characterized by loss of brain abilities, causing decreased cognitive function. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, and affects the memory, thinking and behavior of an estimated 5.4 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease typically start to set in when the patient is over the age of 60. When symptoms such as forgetfulness or thinking problems develop before age 60, it is classified as early onset Alzheimer's disease.
What is Alzheimer's and Dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms that are associated with cognitive decline that causes people to lose their ability to think properly. The two most common types of dementia are Alzheimer's disease, which account for 60 to 80 percent of cases, and vascular dementia, a type of memory loss that occurs after a stroke. It is important to note that not all memory problems that occur with age are necessarily dementia. Many seniors have trouble with memory. Dementia is characterized by impaired memory, communication, language, ability to pay attention, reasoning and judgment and visual perception. When an individual is suffering from two or more of these symptoms, a doctor is usually able to diagnose them with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These cognitive diseases are degenerative and progressive, meaning that thinking ability worsens over time. Thanks to the work of a number of research institutions, scientists have determined that some forms of Alzheimer's are genetic, while others are not. The cause of the disease is not entirely clear, but researchers use the buildup of a plaque in the brain as one target for treatment.
In the beginning, an individual may get lost on familiar routes, misplace items or have difficulty performing thinking tasks that used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook or playing a certain game. They may also lose interest in things they previously enjoyed or show personality changes. Over time, these symptoms will worsen, and they may have difficulty completing basic tasks such as grooming, dressing, preparing meals as well as reading and writing. As the disease progresses, patients may forget details about current events, life events and lose awareness of who they are and who their loved ones are. Eventually, they may not be able to understand language or be able to perform any basic activities of daily living.
While much research is being conducted to understand the disease, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's. However, doctors can prescribe a number of medications to treat certain symptoms. Medications can be prescribed for memory loss symptoms, behavioral changes such as aggression and sleep problems caused by the disease. Many people with Alzheimer's or dementia require a full-time caregiver as well. This is where Interim HealthCare can play a vital role with our Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program.
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