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.
Statistics About Alzheimers Disease Note That Lack Of Sleep May Cause A Threefold Risk Of Alzheimers
While factors like exercise, cognitive activity, and a healthy diet have been widely recognized for helping prevent Alzheimers, sleep isnt mentioned as often. That said, studies have found that people who are sleepy throughout the day have a risk of developing brain deposits of beta-amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimers disease.
Mixed Dementia Is More Common Than Previously Thought
Patients with mixed dementia usually have brain changes of several causes, like Lewy bodies, Alzheimers disease, and vascular dementia. Furthermore, most people whose autopsies reveal they had mixed dementia had been diagnosed with only one type of dementia during their lifeusually Alzheimers disease.
If Im Frequently Forgetting Things It Must Be Alzheimers Disease
Even though memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimers, not all memory problems mean a person has the disease. Some forgetfulness is normal as we age.
Talk with your doctor to determine whether the memory changes youre noticing are normal or may be a sign of something more serious. In some cases, depression or medication side effects can cause memory and other thinking problems. With treatment, it may be possible to reverse some memory problems due to these reasons.
Learn more about whats normal memory loss and whats not.
Stage : Severe Decline
As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one might recognize faces but forget names. They might also mistake a person for someone else, for instance, think their wife is their mother. Delusions might set in, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they no longer have a job.
You might need to help them go to the bathroom.
It might be hard to talk, but you can still connect with them through the senses. Many people with Alzheimer’s love hearing music, being read to, or looking over old photos.
At this stage, your loved one might struggle to:
- Feed themselves
Earlier Detection Clinical Trials Offer Hope
While the terms Alzheimers disease and dementia;are often used interchangeably, the two conditions are not the same. Whereas dementia presents with memory loss, behavioral changes, language difficulties or disorientation which affects a persons ability to function in daily life, Alzheimers disease;refers to a specific brain pathology, explains Ian Grant, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of clinical trial operations at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimers Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
These abnormal proteins may accumulate in the brain up to 15 years before symptoms develop, he says, and the first indication of the disease is usually short-term memory loss. Fortunately, physicians now have access to technologies that make it easier to diagnose Alzheimers disease at an earlier stage. For example, one type of positron emission tomography scan literally lights up amyloid proteins in the brain, while a different PET scan can show abnormal function in parts of the brain, Dr. Grant says. He adds that the most definitive current test for the disease is a lumbar puncture that analyzes a patients cerebrospinal fluid for the presence of amyloid and tau proteins.
What You Need To Know About Alzheimer’s Disease
Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimers disease, according to the Alzheimers Association. Its the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Sadly, it is the countrys sixth leading cause of death.
Although the risk of Alzheimers disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimers is a neurodegenerative disease that involves the progressive deterioration, or death of cells , in the brain and central nervous system. The death and malfunction of the neurons affect their ability to communicate with each other and, in turn, much of the bodys function, from balance and movement to memory and intelligence to breathing and heart function.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimers disease, treatment is available to help slow its progression, reduce symptoms and improve a patients quality of life.
Summa Health discusses risk factors, signs and symptoms, and treatments available in the hopes that a better understanding of Alzheimers disease can better help those affected by it both patients and caregivers.
Risk factors for Alzheimers
Age is the main risk factor for Alzheimers disease. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimers doubles every five years. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly one-third, according to the Alzheimers Association.
Other risk factors for Alzheimers include:
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How Long Can A Person Live With Alzheimers Disease
The time from diagnosis to death varies as little as three;or four;years if the person is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger.
Alzheimers disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimers disease, though there has been significant progress in recent years in developing and testing new treatments. Several medicines have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration;to treat people with Alzheimers.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
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Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
While many of the other early signs and symptoms of Alzheimers disease are often dismissed as being a part of normal aging, once an individual begins to have difficulty completing familiar tasks, theres no denying the need for an accurate medical diagnosis. When your loved one has this symptom, you may notice that they have trouble preparing a simple meal, forget how to play a favorite card game, or are unable to finish a hobby project.;
On The Horizon: New Treatments Show Promise
In recent years tremendous gains have been made in understanding the basic biology of Alzheimer’s, including how brain cells work and what goes wrong in the brain to cause the disease, says Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
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“As our understanding of the underlying biology has increased, we are seeing many new interventions moving into clinical trials, she says.
Several new drugs in development have the potential to be game changers, Snyder says. Some of the most promising are other monoclonal antibody drugs, with names like gantenerumab, lecanemab and donanemab. Like Aduhelm, they’re designed to stick to the molecules that form plaques in the brain and mark them, so that the immune system can recognize them and clear them out.
Donanemab had impressive early results. In a study of 257 patients whose brain scans showed Alzheimer’s, those who took the drug had a 32 percent slower rate of decline over a two-year period than those who received a placebo.
Dozens of other drugs that use different mechanisms for stopping the disease are also being tested, Snyder says.
Because Alzheimer’s is so complex, experts say there may never be just one drug or intervention that will cure it. Instead, Snyder says, it’s likely going to take a combination approach of lifestyle interventions and medications.”
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What Will The Doctor Do
It can be hard for a doctor to diagnose Alzheimer disease because many of its symptoms can be like those of other conditions affecting the brain. The doctor will talk to the patient, find out about any medical problems the person has, and will examine him or her.
The doctor can ask the person questions or have the person take a written test to see how well his or her memory is working. Doctors also can use medical tests to take a detailed picture of the brain. They can study these images and look for signs of Alzheimer disease.
When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, the doctor may prescribe medicine to help with memory and thinking. The doctor also might give the person medicine for other problems, such as depression . Unfortunately, the medicines that the doctors have can’t cure Alzheimer disease; they just help slow it down.
Alzheimers Can Only Be Treated After A Diagnosis
Doctors used to believe that you couldnt do anything about Alzheimers until symptoms appeared. In the past few years, theres been a shift in the thinking for many of us who study dementia. Weve come to the conclusion that the best time to treat Alzheimers disease is before the earliest symptoms surface, says Dr. Kosik. This shift has been brought on by new technology that allows us to peer inside the human brain we now know that the Alzheimers plaques begin to proliferate 10 or even 20 years before the first Alzheimers symptoms become noticeable.
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What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
Myths About Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and millions of Americans are affected by the disease. Its important to distinguish the facts from the myths about Alzheimers, especially when it comes to finding information online. Read on to learn about common myths surrounding this disease.
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Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Although everyone experiences the condition differently, understanding the trajectory of it can help patients and their caregivers know what to expect. Alzheimer’s typically progresses in three general phases:
- Early stage;The person still functions independently. He may still drive, work and be part of social activities. But the individual forgets familiar words or the location of everyday objects with increasing frequency. Symptoms may not be widely apparent, but family and close friends may notice early signs and voice concern.
- Middle stage;The individual can still participate in daily activities but may need extra help. She gets confused more easily or experiences personality changes, like getting angry or acting out in unexpected ways. During this stage it’s important to determine what the person living with Alzheimer’s still enjoys doing and find ways to engage her in those activities. You want to help the individual maintain the best quality of life for as long as possible.
- Late stage;The patient loses the ability to respond to his environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. As memory and cognitive skills worsen, significant personality changes take place and extensive care is required. The end stage of Alzheimer’s can last for several weeks or years; it can be extremely demanding and emotionally draining for families.
What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
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Preclinical Alzheimers Or No Impairment
You may only know about your risk for Alzheimers disease due to family history. Or your doctor may identify biomarkers that indicate your risk.
Your doctor will interview you about memory problems, if youre at risk for Alzheimers. But there will be no noticeable symptoms during the first stage, which can last for years or decades.
Caregiver support: Someone in this stage is fully independent. They may not even know they have the disease.
There Are Supplements That Can Help Prevent Alzheimers
There have yet to be any studies proving the ability of vitamins, herbal products, or medications to prevent the development of Alzheimers disease, says Dr. Kumar Dharmarajan, chief scientific officer at Clover Health.However, a healthy lifestyle including frequent physical activity, heart-healthy diets, and control of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes could help reduce the likelihood, he says. While there is no conclusive evidence directly linking these lifestyle changes to preventing Alzheimers, they have been shown in some studies to promote increased brain health, which could ultimately play a key role in thwarting the disease.
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When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer Disease
You might feel sad or angry or both if someone you love has Alzheimer disease. You might feel nervous around the person, especially if he or she is having trouble remembering important things or can no longer take care of himself or herself.
You might not want to go visit the person, even though your mom or dad wants you to. You are definitely not alone in these feelings. Try talking with a parent or another trusted adult. Just saying what’s on your mind might help you feel better. You also may learn that the adults in your life are having struggles of their own with the situation.
If you visit a loved one who has Alzheimer disease, try to be patient. He or she may have good days and bad days. It can be sad if you can’t have fun in the same ways together. Maybe you and your grandmother liked to go to concerts. If that’s no longer possible, maybe bring her some wonderful music and listen together. It’s a way to show her that you care and showing that love is important, even if her memory is failing.
Myth: Dementia And Alzheimers Disease Are The Same Thing
As Dr. Isenberg pointed out, dementia and Alzheimers disease arent the same. Dementia is an overall term for mental ability that has become so impaired it interferes with daily life. While Alzheimers is a specific disease, dementia is not.
Dementia is a set of symptoms that have to do with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills. There are many types of dementia and a range of causes for it. One condition is called mixed dementia. It happens when brain changes of more than one type of dementia develop all at the same time.
The condition develops when brain cells are damaged, which affects how the cells communicate with each other. This can affect thinking, feelings and behavior. People can have more than one type of dementia, which is known as mixed dementia. Often, people with mixed dementia have many conditions that may contribute to dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but keep in mind that not everyone with dementia is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Stage : Moderately Severe Decline
Your loved one might start to lose track of where they are and what time it is. They might have trouble remembering their address, phone number, or where they went to school. They could get confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season.
You can help by laying out their clothing in the morning. It can help them dress by themselves and keep a sense of independence.
If they repeat the same question, answer with an even, reassuring voice. They might be asking the question less to get an answer and more to just know you’re there.
Even if your loved one can’t remember facts and details, they might still be able to tell a story. Invite them to use their imagination at those times.