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Thursday, 25 July 2013 14:44

When a Loved One Has Alzheimers Disease

Could It Be Alzheimer's?

It's normal for our loved ones to become a bit forgetful as they age. So how can we separate a harmless "senior moment" from a more serious problem like Alzheimer's disease? One in eight people 65 and older have this devastating form of dementia. In its first stages, Alzheimer's may not be obvious to friends and family. But there are some early warning signs to watch for.

 

 

Finger With Reminder String

 

Warning Signs: Memory and Speech

In early Alzheimer's, long-term memories usually remain intact while short-term memories become sketchy. Your loved one may forget conversations you had. He or she may repeat questions that were already answered. The disease also disrupts speech, so patients may struggle to remember common words.

Woman With Eyes Closed

Warning Signs: Behavior

In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer's can cause confusion and behavior changes. Your loved one may get lost in familiar places. Mood swings and poor judgment are also common, as is poor hygiene. People who once dressed with style may resort to wearing stained clothes and unwashed hair.

Elderly Woman Standing on Sidewalk

 

Don't Ignore the Signs

While it's difficult to face the possibility that a loved one could have Alzheimer's, it's better to consult a doctor sooner rather than later. First, the diagnosis might not be Alzheimer's after all. The symptoms could be caused by a highly treatable problem, such as a thyroid imbalance. And if it is Alzheimer's, today's treatments work best when they are used early in the course of the disease.

Doctor Talking to Patients

 

Diagnosing Alzheimer's

There is no simple test for Alzheimer's, so the doctor will rely on you to describe the changes in your loved one. A mental status test, sometimes called a "mini-cog," or other screening tests can help evaluate the patient's mental function and short-term memory. In addition, neurological exams and brain scans may be used to rule out other problems, such as a stroke or tumor -- and they can help provide other information about the brain.

Older Man Getting Brain Scan

Alzheimer's and the Brain

Alzheimer's disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease progresses, brain tissue shrinks and the ventricles (chambers within the brain that contain cerebrospinal fluid) become larger. The damage disrupts communication between brain cells, crippling memory, speech, and comprehension.

Alzheimer Brain MRI

Alzheimer's Progression: What to Expect

Alzheimer's disease takes a different path in every patient. In some people the symptoms worsen quickly, leading to severe memory loss and confusion within a few years. In others, the changes may be more gradual with the disease taking 20 years to run its course. The average length of survival after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is three to nine years.

Older Couple Holding Hands

 

Read 4367 times Last modified on Friday, 26 July 2013 14:24