March 25, 2009

How Alzheimer’s Disease Lessen the Brain Power (1)

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, most regular in people over the age of 65 years, although there have been cases of hereditary development of Alzheimer‘s disease in younger patients on rare occasions also. Characterized by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles (entwined or tangled bundles of fibers) and amyloid plaques (abnormal clusters) in the brain, it is believed that these strangely misplaced proteins disrupt the chemical interaction between nerve cells, and break the communication centers within the brain, causing them to atrophy with time.

In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient will often experience memory loss, poor judgment or periods of uncertainty, agitation, and/or mood swings. Throughout this time, proteins build up and create the telltale tangles and plaques within the entorhinal cortex of the brain. This is the part critical to the memory; retrieving past memories and thoughts, as well as handing out new information and memories within the brain. Unhappily, it is rather common that the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be misdiagnosed or overlooked simply as another step in the aging process. Quite often, it isn’t until the symptoms become completely obvious, that a patient might be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

As the condition worsens, Alzheimer’s patients somewhat frequently suffer from language deterioration, problems with mathematical figures, an impaired ability to manipulate visual information, and definite or noticeable difficulty in recognizing familiar faces, addresses, or common information. They can often become pointedly confused and may forget certain things that would seem almost routine to them, such as getting dressed, turning off the stove, or brushing one’s hair or teeth before leaving the house. Feelings of irritation and unease are common during this time, and shifts in personality are not unheard of. Rather often, an Alzheimer’s patient in this stage may not even recognize close family, such as a son or a mother, and becomes very scared or angry when they are touched.

March 18, 2009

Late Alzheimer’s Stage: Your Options of Care (2)

Nursing homes are required when the patient needs 24 hour direction or special care. Specially licensed and able to manage the proper medications as needed, some nursing homes even have specialized programs for patients suffering from dementia. Moreover, nursing homes have qualified professionals on staff and have to submit to regular inspections, to assure patients are receiving appropriate care.

Many people feel in the wrong about leaving their loved ones in a nursing home and choose to keep the patient with them, where they are more familiar with their surroundings and cared for by those that love them. True, these are very good reasons, but again, one must all the time look at the big picture. Previous to you take such a risk, consider everything over clearly; are you really able to stay with your loved one all over the duration of this disease if it goes on for another 20 years? Are you ready to give up your job? What about your life out, dancing in the clubs, or taking trips? Can you put your life on hold for all that time?

If you feel you are capable of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, another form of help is available in hospice care. Hospice care is an option for any fatally ill patient, during their last 6 months of life or, as in the case of those suffering dementia, during the last stage of Alzheimer‘s disease. Experienced with medical equipment, meds, and often just talking and helping to lessen stress, hospice care workers often help to tend for the ill person, handling the things they cannot do at home, such as bathing, administering certain medications, etc.

Whether you decide to have your loved one’s care provided in a nursing home or in your own home is a choice you and they have to make, hopefully together. Consider all avenues; cost, needs, programs, reliability and respectability. Once you’ve weighed your alternatives and considered all routes, when it comes down to the final decision, follow your heart.

March 10, 2009

Late Alzheimer’s Stage: Your Options of Care (1)

Alzheimer’s is known as a very brutal and unforgiving brain disease. Damaging its capability to keep memories and communicate with the rest of the body, it is a degenerative condition; it grows steadily worse with time. Unluckily, there is no known cure, nor way of reversing the damage, once it is done. While early Alzheimer’s stage seem like little more than the occasional memory lapse, a person suffering from the final stages of Alzheimer’s is in need of 24 hour care and continuous watching. How can we handle an adult who is suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease? What sort of care services are available, to help a loved one who is in the final stages of this devastating disease? What can you do in order to help?

The most imperative thing you can do, to help a person with Alzheimer’s disease, is to be patient, helpful and sympathetic. A diagnosis of this level can be just as devastating as the condition itself, and patients are often frustrated, confused and scared. Promise your loved ones that, no matter what, you will be there for them and talk about different options with the patient, letting them have a say in the decision being made.

While a person is suffering the early Alzheimer’s stage, there are many options accessible for them, such as adult day services, retirement housing or in-home respite services. Nevertheless, as the disease progresses and the Alzheimer’s patient come to require more and more help and direction, these independent care facilities are no longer an option. By the time that a patient has entered into the end stage of Alzheimer’s, they will require 24-hour care and steady supervision. By this moment, the main question is whether you wish to care for your loved one at home, or if you believe that a nursing home can provide them with the best possible care.

This decision can be difficult, both on the patient and on their loved ones. At a time they are feeling lost, frightened and confused, the Alzheimer’s patient is already dealing with feelings of being abandoned and often suffering from unease, or lashing out with aggressive behavior. This can make a wise decision hard, sometimes, to choose. Although few find pleasure in the idea of having somebody they love placed into a home, in some cases, this may very well be what is for the best.

March 05, 2009

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Stages Explained

Maybe you’ve possibly done it yourself, more times than you care to count; forgetting what it was that you walked into the room to get. Or how about all those times when you’ve set your keys down for just a moment and, for the life of you, you just can’t find them? You could have confirmed that you set them down there, right in plain view, and yet they seem to have disappeared into thin air. It can be insufferably frustrating, angering you until you want to shout (not to mention making you late) and, other times, it can be nearly frightening and confusing when it happens, making you feel as if you’re acting brainless or, worse yet, losing your mind. But may it be the beginning of your dementia stages?

In most cases, we see these ordinary mental slips and think nothing about them. Sometimes, the brain just doesn’t seem to want to connect when you ask it a question like, “What are seven times five?” Not only is it a usual happening all the way through life, but we also attribute it to senior age - as time goes by, you tend to get a bit more forgetful. “Seniors tend to be rather absent-minded,” some might say and, for the most part, it’s so. Most people, who suffer brief lapses in memory or thought, are not suffering from Alzheimer’s disease but, for a few of them, these very slight signals can be just the tip of the iceberg.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be much like a cat, stalking a mouse. In the beginning, its approach is barely noticeable and easily overlooked; patients suffer slight memory lapses, where they forget details of current events, twist things around or, occasionally forget names, faces, or directions. Math and spelling may cause the sporadic pause but, generally, these ‘spells’ are short-lived in those who are in the primary Alzheimer’s or dementia stages. Making things even more difficult is the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have no definite test that can be given to expose their presence. Actually, the only way that a doctor can be 100% confident on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, so far, is for an autopsy to be performed on the patient, after s/he has passed away. While a doctor may expect or guess that the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease, he can never be 100% sure about this. There is no exact test may be performed to diagnose this condition.

Since the condition progresses, the patient becomes more confused and their forgetfulness now begins to interfere with their daily activities and routines. The person suffering from the second Alzheimer’s disease and dementia stages may forget to brush his/her teeth or will leave the house without brushing his/her hair. At times, it can be more drastic, like the person trying to walk out of the house without clothing or heading out into the snow in their bare feet.

Fairly often, it is at this stage when the patient will begin to lose significant memories, such as not recognizing loved ones. Unexpectedly finding themselves in odd surroundings, one can only imagine how frightening it must seem, having a stranger come up and try to insist they are your son or daughter and trying to contact you. Obviously, it comes as little surprise that Alzheimer’s patients, at this stage of the dementia, are also prone to becoming worried or hostile and, if left unattended, will commonly wander from where they are supposed to be.

Unhappily, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, nor is there any way of reversing its effects on those who fall victim to it. Believed to stem from a disorder in the nerve cells and chemical transmitters in the brain, this condition will continue until the patient not only loses the memories of friend and family, but also memories of learning how to talk, walk, use the toilet, and so on. In time, they have no other choice than having to have full time, and total, care.

In the final Alzheimer’s disease and dementia stages, the patient has generally lost their ability to communicate and has forgotten easy things that we take for granted, like how to swallow or the ability to breathe. While people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have been known to live for 20 years after being diagnosed with it, the regular amount of remaining time is usually about 8 years. Watching a loved one slip out over several years can be shocking to a family and crushing for loved ones. The fourth most frequent cause of death amongst our elderly, Alzheimer’s is a serious condition and scientists continue to study it, in hopes of finding ways to strike it.