Get All Legal And Financial Affairs In Order
As Alzheimers progresses, it becomes more imperative for a trusted loved one to be able to help manage bank accounts, health insurance, caregiving and medical decisions. Get that process started now, so you can be sure all wishes are respected.
Meet with an elder care attorney and get all your legal and financial affairs in order. Make sure it is an attorney who specializes in elder care. Have them also start the process for the VA Aid & Attendance Benefit, a long, long process, Dayna Steele advised on HuffPost.
What Increases Your Risk
Certain things make getting a disease more likely. These are called risk factors. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Getting older. This is the main risk factor. People rarely have dementia before age 60.
- A family history of Alzheimer’s disease, especially if one or more of your parents or siblings has the disease.
- The presence of the apolipoprotein E-4 gene.
- Having Down syndrome.
- Injuries to the brain, especially more than one injury that caused you to pass out
Alzheimers Disease Vs Other Types Of Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that involve a loss of cognitive functioning.
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. It involves plaques and tangles forming in the brain. Symptoms start gradually and are most likely to include a decline in cognitive function and language ability.
To receive a diagnosis of Alzheimers, a person will be experiencing memory loss, cognitive decline, or behavioral changes that are affecting their ability to function in their daily life.
Friends and family may notice the symptoms of dementia before the person themselves.
There is no single test for Alzheimers disease. If a doctor suspects the presence of the condition, they will ask the person and sometimes their family or caregivers about their symptoms, experiences, and medical history.
The doctor may also carry out the following tests:
- cognitive and memory tests, to assess the persons ability to think and remember
- neurological function tests, to test their balance, senses, and reflexes
- blood or urine tests
- a CT scan or MRI scan of the brain
- genetic testing
A number of assessment tools are available to assess cognitive function.
In some cases, genetic testing may be appropriate, as the symptoms of dementia can be related to an inherited condition such as Huntingtons disease.
Some forms of the APOE e4 gene are associated with a higher chance of developing Alzheimers disease.
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A Person With Dementia Doesnt Always Fit Into One Stage
Dementia affects each person in a unique way and changes different parts of the brain at different points in the disease progression.
Plus, different types of dementia tend to have different symptoms.
For example, someone with frontotemporal dementia may first show extreme behavior and personality changes. But someone with Alzheimers disease would first experience short-term memory loss and struggle with everyday tasks.
Researchers and doctors still dont know enough about how these diseases work to predict exactly what will happen.
Another common occurrence is for someone in the middle stages of dementia to suddenly have a clear moment, hour, or day and seem like theyre back to their pre-dementia abilities. They could be sharp for a little while and later, go back to having obvious cognitive impairment.
When this happens, some families may feel like their older adult is faking their symptoms or just isnt trying hard enough.
Its important to know that this isnt true, its truly the dementia thats causing their declining abilities as well as those strange moments of clarity theyre truly not doing it on purpose.
What Caregivers Can Do To Help
- Physical Activity: Encourage the person to continue exercising such as going for walks, stretching their limbs, and being as independent as possible with other activities of daily living.
- Physical and Occupational Therapy: If you notice a decline in the ability to walk or get dressed, or in your loved one’s balance, consider arranging for some physical or occupational therapy. These therapists can help build up strength, reinforce self-care in the early and middle stages and work to prevent falls by improving balance. They can also do a home visit to identify safety hazards in the home.
- Passive Range of Motion: In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one might benefit from gentle range of motion exercises. These exercises are usually accomplished by the caregiver carefully moving the arms, wrists, hands, legs, and feet to stretch them so that they are less likely to develop painful contractures.
- Good Nutrition: As is the case with most conditions, adequate nutrition can help maintain physical functioning. Sometimes, difficulties in eating and drinking can make nutrition a challenge in dementia.
- Skin Care: Because physical movement is limited in the later stages of dementia, take precautions to prevent skin breakdown as well.
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Signs Of Mild Alzheimers Disease
In mild Alzheimers disease, a person may seem to be healthy but has more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. The realization that something is wrong often comes gradually to the person and his or her family. Problems can include:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
- Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Repeating questions
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
A common cause of death for people with Alzheimers disease is aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia develops when a person cannot swallow properly and takes food or liquids into the lungs instead of air.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are medicines that can treat the symptoms of the disease.
Medications To Maintain Mental Function In Alzheimer’s Disease
Several medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat symptoms of Alzheimers. Donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine are used to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimers. Donepezil, memantine, the rivastigmine patch, and a combination medication of memantine and donepezil are used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimers symptoms. All of these drugs work by regulating neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons. They may help reduce symptoms and help with certain behavioral problems. However, these drugs dont change the underlying disease process. They are effective for some but not all people and may help only for a limited time.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
Icipating In Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials
Everybody those with Alzheimers disease or MCI as well as healthy volunteers with or without a family history of Alzheimers may be able to take part in clinical trials and studies. Participants in Alzheimers clinical research help scientists learn how the brain changes in healthy aging and in Alzheimers. Currently, at least 270,000 volunteers are needed to participate in more than 250 active clinical trials and studies that are testing ways to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimers disease.
Volunteering for a clinical trial is one way to help in the fight against Alzheimers. Studies need participants of different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that results are meaningful for many people. To learn more about clinical trials, watch this video from NIH’s National Library of Medicine.
NIA leads the federal governments research efforts on Alzheimers. NIA-supported Alzheimers Disease Research Centers throughout the U.S. conduct a wide range of research, including studies of the causes, diagnosis, and management of the disease. NIA also sponsors the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, which is designed to accelerate and expand studies and therapies in Alzheimers and related dementias.
To learn more about Alzheimers clinical trials and studies:
- Talk to your health care provider about local studies that may be right for you.
Watch videos of participants in Alzheimers disease clinical trials talking about their experiences.
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The Role Of Neurofibrillary Tangles
The second major finding in the Alzheimer’s brain is neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles are composed of Tau proteins, which play a crucial role in the normal structure and function of the neuron. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, the formally straight Tau proteins have mutated, due to overactive enzymes, resulting in twisted strands that aggregate together and become tangles. These tangles acculumulate inside the neuron, disrupt cell activity , and result in the death of the neuron.
Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks
Getting lost on your way home from the grocery store or difficultly doing the job you’ve had for 20 years are warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.
It’s important to recognize that this doesn’t refer to learning something new. Instead, this is a change in the ability to do something you’ve always been able to do until now.
What it’s not: Difficulty using the new television remote control.
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Knowing The Stages Of Dementia Helps You Plan
Even if the stages arent exact and symptoms can still be unpredictable, being able to plan ahead is essential.
The truth is that Alzheimers and dementia care is expensive and time-consuming. Being financially prepared for increasing care needs is a necessity.
On an emotional level, having an idea of what symptoms to expect helps you find ways to cope with challenging behaviors.
It also gives you a chance to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your older adult.
Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment
Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:
- Getting lost easily
- Noticeably poor performance at work
- Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
- Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
- Losing or misplacing important objects
- Difficulty concentrating
Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.
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Early Warning Signs And Diagnosis
Alzheimers Disease can be caught in the early stageswhen the best treatments are availableby watching for telltale warning signs. If you recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment to see your physician right away. Brain imaging technology can diagnose Alzheimers early, improving the opportunities for symptom management.
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior
Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.
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Can You Prevent Alzheimers Disease
There is no sure way to prevent Alzheimers disease. However, you can reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease by caring for your health:
- your heart whats good for your heart is good for your brain so stick to a healthy diet and dont smoke
- your body regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain so maintain an active lifestyle
- your mind an active mind helps build brain cells and strengthens their connections so socialise, do things such as puzzles and crosswords, and learn new things, such as a language
Learn more about the risk factors associated with Alzheimers and other types of dementia, and what you can do to reduce your risk:
When Should You Call Your Doctor
Alzheimer’s disease tends to develop slowly over time. If confusion and other changes in mental abilities come on suddenly, within hours or days, the problem may be delirium. Delirium needs treatment right away.
Seek care now if:
- Symptoms such as a shortened attention span, memory problems, or seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there develop suddenly over hours to days.
- A person who has Alzheimer’s disease has a sudden, significant change in normal behavior or if symptoms suddenly get worse.
- Symptoms such as a shortened attention span, memory problems, or false beliefs develop gradually over a few weeks or months.
- Memory loss and other symptoms start to interfere with the person’s work or social life or could cause injury or harm to the person.
- You need help caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.
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What Are The Differences Between Early
In addition to age, there are other differences between early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, including the following:
- Most cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease appears to be linked with a genetic defect on chromosome 1 or 14 late-onset Alzheimer’s is not linked to this genetic defect. Also Down syndrome patients develop early onset Alzheimers dementia after the age of 40 because they have an inherent defect on chromosome 21. Some patients who have early onset Alzheimers disease have the ApoE 4/4 gene, which is a very strong genetic risk factor for disease development.
- A condition called myoclonus muscle twitching and spasm is more commonly seen in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease than in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
- Some research suggests that people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease decline at a faster rate than do those with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Younger people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease tend to be more physically fit and active, and many still have family and career responsibilities. As a result, they tend to react differently to the disease, and may be more likely to feel powerless, frustrated and depressed.
Tips for living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
Here are some tips for living with Alzheimer’s disease:
Family and friends
Financial and legal matters
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/26/2019.
What Is Alzheimers Disease
- Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia.
- It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Alzheimers disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- It can seriously affect a persons ability to carry out daily activities.
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Do Respond To Your Loved Ones Feelings
Treat your loved one with love, dignity, and joy. Words may not match true feelings as expressive language changes. Try to read your loved ones actions as well as their words to understand what they are feeling. Make space for all of the feelings, theirs, and yours – the easy and the hard.
The journey with dementia is a very rich time psychologically and spiritually. While there are marked physical declines, there can also be rich growth spiritually. Expressing and responding to both of your feelings is a way to tap into that opportunity. For example, if your loved one is moved to tears by a song or piece of art do not immediately try to cheer them up. Get curious about what moved them and support them.
The same goes for you. Caring for someone living with dementia is an emotional and spiritual journey. Be gentle with yourself and tend kindly to your own feelings and process.
How Does Alzheimers Disease Affect The Brain
The brain typically shrinks to some degree in healthy aging but, surprisingly, does not lose neurons in large numbers. In Alzheimers disease, however, damage is widespread, as many neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Alzheimers disrupts processes vital to neurons and their networks, including communication, metabolism, and repair.
At first, Alzheimers disease typically destroys neurons and their connections in parts of the brain involved in memory, including the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. It later affects areas in the cerebral cortex responsible for language, reasoning, and social behavior. Eventually, many other areas of the brain are damaged. Over time, a person with Alzheimers gradually loses his or her ability to live and function independently. Ultimately, the disease is fatal.
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How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed And Evaluated
No single test can determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis is made by determining the presence of certain symptoms and ruling out other causes of dementia. This involves a careful medical evaluation, including a thorough medical history, mental status testing, a physical and neurological exam, blood tests and brain imaging exams, including:
What You Should Do For Alzheimers Prevention
Even though we don’t have enough evidence that all healthy lifestyle choices prevent Alzheimer’s, we do know they can prevent other chronic problems. For example, limiting alcohol intake can help reduce the risk for certain cancers, such as breast cancer. Best advice: make as many healthy lifestyle choices as you can. “They’re all beneficial, and if they help you avoid Alzheimer’s, all the better,” says Dr. Marshall.
Know the symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Forgetting where you parked your car can be annoying. If it happens all the time, it can be disturbing, and you may worry that it’s a sign of a more serious condition. But don’t panic. There’s a difference between normal age-related memory slips, such as forgetting where the car keys are, and more serious signs of memory loss, such as forgetting what car keys are used for.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include frequent memory loss, confusion about locations, taking longer to accomplish normal daily tasks, trouble handling money and paying bills, loss of spontaneity, and mood and personality changes. “If you have a decline in your memory or thinking that affects your ability to perform any of your daily routines, ask your doctor for a screening to evaluate you for Alzheimer’s and related conditions,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor of neurology.
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