Common Diseases Of The Elderly
Now that people are living longer than ever, diseases associated with old age are more common. Below youll find descriptions of some of the most common ailments affecting older adults, along with their symptoms and treatment.
As our bodies age, they can become more susceptible to disease and other chronic conditions. We need to be mindful of how we care for our bodies in order to live a long and healthy life and make good choices to decrease our risk of disease. However, sometimes poor health is unavoidable.
What are common diseases in the elderly? The following are diseases in the elderly that every CDPAP caregiver should be familiar with.
Causes Of Alzheimers Disease
Researchers are rapidly learning more about the chemical changes that damage brain cells in Alzheimers disease. Apart from the few with familial Alzheimers disease, it is not known why some people develop Alzheimers disease and others do not. It is likely that a number of factors contribute to development of the disease, including environmental, genetic and health factors.Alzheimers disease is characterised by specific changes in the brain that include the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles . An abnormal build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid causes amyloid plaques to form outside the brain cells. Inside the brain cells, another protein called tau builds up and causes neurofibrillary tangles.These protein accumulations disrupt messages within the brain because they damage connections between brain cells. The brain cells eventually die and brain volume shrinks. These brain changes occur gradually and actually begin many years before the symptoms of Alzheimers disease occur. The brain is able to compensate for the early damage, but eventually the damage becomes too great and brain function is affected.
Active Management Of Alzheimer’s Dementia
- Appropriate use of available treatment options.
- Effective management of coexisting conditions.
- Providing family caregivers with effective training in managing the day-to-day life of the care recipient.
- Coordination of care among physicians, other health care professionals and lay caregivers.
- Participation in activities that are meaningful to the individual with dementia and bring purpose to his or her life.
- Having opportunities to connect with others living with dementia support groups and supportive services are examples of such opportunities.
- Becoming educated about the disease.
- Planning for the future.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, as well as practical information for living with Alzheimer’s and being a caregiver, visit alz.org.
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Specific Information In This Report
Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures
- Brain changes that occur with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Number of Americans with Alzheimer’s dementia nationally and for each state.
- Lifetime risk for developing Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Proportion of women and men with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
- Number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease nationally and for each state, and death rates by age.
- Number of family caregivers, hours of care provided, and economic value of unpaid care nationally and for each state.
- The impact of caregiving on caregivers.
- National cost of care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, including costs paid by Medicare and Medicaid and costs paid out of pocket.
- Medicare payments for people with dementia compared with people without dementia.
- Number of geriatricians needed by state in 2050.
The Appendices detail sources and methods used to derive statistics in this report.
When possible, specific information about Alzheimer’s disease is provided in other cases, the reference may be a more general one of âAlzheimer’s or other dementias.â
What Is The Cause Of Alzheimers Disease
While the exact cause of Alzheimers disease is not completely understood, it appears to result from an alteration of proteins in the brain that become toxic and disrupt normal neuronal signaling.
Alzheimers disease pathology interferes with the formation of memories at both the biochemical level and at the structural level, through interference with the physical integrity of neural networks. The patterns of impaired memory functions observed relate to changes in the structure and function of the brain.
An association between head injury and Alzheimers disease has been suggested. Head injury can result in over-expression of the -amyloid precursor protein, leading to the accumulation of -amyloid deposits in the brain, one of the hallmark proteins seen in brains of Alzheimers disease patients.
A recent study demonstrated that increased vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, in subjects affected by mild cognitive impairment resulted in an increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease. These results suggest that treatment of vascular damage can reduce the incidence of Alzheimers disease.
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Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be very subtle. However, it often begins with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.
Other symptoms may include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Forgetting well-known people or places
- Inability to process questions and instructions
- Deterioration of social skills
- Emotional unpredictability
Symptoms vary and the disease progresses at a different pace according to the individual and the areas of the brain affected. A person’s abilities may fluctuate from day to day, or even within the one day, becoming worse in times of stress, fatigue or ill-health.
Treatment Of Alzheimer’s Dementia
2.5.1 Pharmacologic treatment
None of the pharmacologic treatments available today for Alzheimer’s dementia slow or stop the damage and destruction of neurons that cause Alzheimer’s symptoms and make the disease fatal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s â rivastigmine, galantamine, donepezil, memantine, and memantine combined with donepezil. With the exception of memantine, these drugs temporarily improve cognitive symptoms by increasing the amount of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. Memantine blocks certain receptors in the brain from excess stimulation that can damage nerve cells. The effectiveness of these drugs varies from person to person and is limited in duration.
Many factors contribute to the difficulty of developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. These factors include the slow pace of recruiting sufficient numbers of participants and sufficiently diverse participants to clinical studies, gaps in knowledge about the precise molecular changes and biological processes in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease, and the relatively long time needed to observe whether an investigational treatment affects disease progression.
2.5.2 Non-pharmacologic therapy
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Risk Factors And Prevention
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of biological ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people young onset dementia accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by being physically active, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, social isolation, low educational attainment, cognitive inactivity and air pollution.
Lifetime Risk Of Alzheimer’s Dementia
Lifetime risk is the probability that someone of a given age who does not have a particular condition will develop the condition during his or her remaining life span. Data from the Framingham Heart Study were used to estimate lifetime risks of Alzheimer’s dementia by age and sex., As shown in Figure , the study found that the estimated lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s dementia at age 45 was approximately one in five for women and one in 10 for men. The risks for both sexes were slightly higher at age 65.
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Is There Treatment Available
At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, one group of drugs called cholinergeric drugs appears to be providing some temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs can also be prescribed for secondary symptoms such as restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia sleep better.
Community support is available for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. Dementia Australia provides support, information and counselling for people affected by dementia. Dementia Australia also aims to provide up-to-date information about drug treatments.
For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
For a range of books and videos contact our Library.
For advice, common sense approaches and practical strategies on the issues most commonly raised about dementia, read our Help Sheets.
How Common Is Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia . Alzheimers disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
One in 10 people older than 65 and nearly half of people older than 85 have Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers disease can also affect people in their 40s. The percentage of people who have Alzheimers disease rises every decade beyond the age of 60. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, with the aging of the population and without successful treatment, there will be 14 million Americans and 106 million people worldwide with Alzheimers disease by 2050.
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Difficulty Determining Time Or Place
Losing track of dates and misunderstanding the passage of time as it occurs are also two common symptoms. Planning for future events can become difficult since they arent immediately occurring.
As symptoms progress, people with AD can become increasingly forgetful about where they are, how they got there, or why theyre there.
What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
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Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
People with Alzheimers disease differ in the patterns of problems they experience and in the speed with which their abilities deteriorate. Their abilities may change from day to day, or even within the same day. What is certain is that the persons abilities will deteriorate sometimes rapidly over a few months, sometimes more slowly, over a number of years.Some of the features of Alzheimers disease are classified into three stages. It is important to remember that not all of these features will be present in every person, nor will every person go through every stage. But these stages are still a useful description of the progression of Alzheimers disease.At all stages of Alzheimers disease, treatments and support services are available. Use these to make sure of the best possible quality of life for everyone affected by Alzheimers disease.
What Does Alzheimers Disease Look Like
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimers, though initial symptoms may vary from person to person. A decline in other aspects of thinking, such as finding the right words, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimers disease. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that can be an early sign of Alzheimers, but not everyone with MCI will develop the disease.
People with Alzheimers have trouble doing everyday things like driving a car, cooking a meal, or paying bills. They may ask the same questions over and over, get lost easily, lose things or put them in odd places, and find even simple things confusing. As the disease progresses, some people become worried, angry, or violent.
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Treatment For Alzheimer’s Disease
At this stage, there is no cure and no treatment that can stop the Alzheimers disease progressing.Medications are available that can help to stabilise or slow the decline in memory and thinking abilities for a time, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Other medications are available that might help with secondary symptoms like depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.It is important to remember that all medications have side effects. People with Alzheimers disease may take a number of medications and your doctor can help you to understand how the different medications might interact with each other.Non-medication therapies, staying active and socially connected, as well as managing stress, can help people with Alzheimers disease. Education and professional support are important for people with Alzheimers disease and their families and carers.
Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Some people have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. It can be an early sign of Alzheimers. But, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimers disease. People with MCI can still take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:
- Losing things often
- Forgetting to go to events or appointments
- Having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimers
Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimers. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:
- Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
- Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
- Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.
Other symptoms may be changes in the persons behavior, including:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- Repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Wandering and getting lost.
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression.
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How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
Only an autopsy can positively confirm the presence of the disease. Knowledgeable physicians however, can correctly diagnose Alzheimer’s about 90 percent of the time based on mental and behavioral symptoms, a physical examination, and neuropsychological and laboratory tests. Scientists have recently developed a number of new biomarker and brain scanning techniques that may help to improve diagnosis.
Having trouble following instructions, losing one’s orientation, displaying poor judgment, and having difficulty managing money, shopping, or driving are all possible mental symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
When a person experiencing such declines visits the doctor, the medical exam will usually include a general physical, blood tests, and urinalysis. The doctor can use such test results to eliminate other forms of dementiafor instance, certain vitamins and hormones can provoke symptoms of dementia if they are present in too little a quantity. Brain scans can rule out non-Alzheimer’s disease dementia and can reveal structural changes present in Alzheimer’s.
The physician will determine whether neuropsychological testing is called for to examine memory, attention, math calculations, language, and other intellectual functions. The place to start is with one’s own physician, who may then suggest specialists to do further testing.
Emerging Issues In Dementias Including Alzheimers Disease
Over the past decade, there has been significant scientific progress in understanding and managing dementia, with research focused on the most common form of the disorder, Alzheimers disease. During the next decade, it will be important that progress be made in:
- Improving the early diagnosis of Alzheimers disease and other dementias
- Developing interventions to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimers disease and other dementias
- Finding better ways to manage dementia when other chronic conditions are present
- Understanding the influence of lifestyle factors on a persons risk of cognitive decline and dementia
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Down Syndrome And Alzheimers Disease
People with Down syndrome have a third copy of chromosome 21, instead of the usual two copies. This genetic change causes a collection of characteristics, including intellectual disability and some common physical traits.The APP gene that leads to the production of the beta-amyloid protein present in Alzheimers plaques is located on chromosome 21. This means that people with Down syndrome make one and a half times the amount of APP and, as a consequence, more beta-amyloid. This appears to be the cause of the earlier appearance of the brain changes typical of Alzheimers disease in people with Down syndrome.
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Alzheimer’s Disease Or Dementia
Many people wonder what the difference is between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Dementia is an overall term for a particular group of symptoms. The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia has many causes . Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Watch For Signs The Person Is In Pain
Always remember that the person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to tell you when he or she is in pain. Watch the person’s face to see if it looks like he or she is in pain or feeling ill. Also, notice sudden changes in behavior such as increased yelling or striking out. If you are unsure what to do, call the doctor for help.
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