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What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated April 3, 2023

Your loved one becomes lost in their once familiar neighborhood. They spend hours looking for keys to a car when they stopped driving years ago. They begin uncharacteristically lashing out at friends and family. It’s natural to wonder what is happening and how you can help your loved one in these kinds of situations. They may visit their medical care team and learn that these unusual behaviors are symptoms of something bigger. They have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease, which was first recognized and described in 1906 by researcher Alois Alzheimer, is the most common cause of dementia, and is highly prevalent in seniors. It’s a progressive brain disease that initially manifests as minor cognitive problems such as forgetfulness.
Other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include:
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Speech trouble
The minor cognitive problems that mark the early stages of the illness gradually become major cognitive problems during the middle stages. In the late stages, patients lose their ability to perform key functions such as:
  • Swallowing
  • Walking
  • Eating
  • Recognizing their loved ones
  • Controlling bladder and bowels
Alzheimer’s disease is one cause of dementia, but there are others. Related dementias, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia, have some similar symptoms, trajectories, and outcomes.
It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s is hard on a senior’s family members too. Family caregivers often pay a high toll for their labor of love, reporting high levels of stress and sadness, and also increased health problems.

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An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not the end

Seniors typically live four to eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other progressive dementias, although some people have lived for two decades or more with Alzheimer’s. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, there isn’t any reason patients with early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s should not enjoy a decent quality of life.
With the support of loving relatives, hardworking caregivers, competent physicians, and professional senior care providers, people with Alzheimer’s have the opportunity to enjoy many years of good living with their family and loved ones.
Alzheimer’s is managed with medications as well as non-chemical approaches such as music therapy and reminiscence therapy. There are a few FDA-approved drugs available to either slow progression of the disease or mitigate symptoms. Physicians may also prescribe other medications to alleviate unpleasant behavioral symptoms and make the lives of patients and caregivers easier.

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Alzheimer’s and dementia care

When Alzheimer’s is highly advanced, informal care by family caregivers is usually not sufficient. In-home care services may be able to supplement a family’s efforts for a time, but many Alzheimer’s patients will eventually require dedicated memory care. This can be provided at an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or a standalone community that specializes in dementia care. These memory care settings aim to make seniors with dementia as comfortable and content as possible while also keeping the residents safe from hazards such as wandering.
Memory care units for Alzheimer’s patients are often purpose-built to be warm and inviting. They frequently feature circular hallways so that residents can’t get lost. The staff is specially trained to effectively interact with and care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Even activities, meals, and enrichment opportunities are tailored to be appropriate for people with Alzheimer’s or similar kinds of dementia.


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OurParents Staff

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