ALZHEIMER’S IS A BRAIN disease that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of all cases. Dementia is a general term for the loss of cognitive abilities and memory severe enough to be a challenge in daily life.
Causes and Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s
The two main risk factors for Alzheimer’s are age and family history, but half of the people with late-onset (meaning it begins after age 65) Alzheimer’s have no family history of the disease. Research is being done into the “environmental” factors that may increase the risk of the disease. A past head injury, low levels of education, and an unhealthy lifestyle appear to make a person more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but scientists aren’t sure why.
Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms
The first symptom of the disease is usually a growing difficulty with remembering new information. Most of us will experience a certain amount of slowed thinking and occasional memory lapses as we age, but serious memory loss, confusion, and other significant changes to our cognitive function indicate something other than the normal aging process.
Alzheimer’s affects the areas of the brain that control learning first. People in the early stage might not recognize that they have a problem, but it will be more obvious to friends and family members. Anyone experiencing symptoms should see a doctor. Early diagnosis and intervention have come a long way and there are treatment options that can dramatically improve quality of life.
Alzheimer’s Gets Worse Over Time
As a progressive disease, Alzheimer’s comes on gradually and worsens over a number of years. Memory loss is mild in the early stages, but a late-stage patient may lose their ability to respond to their surroundings or have a conversation. In the U.S., this disease is the sixth-leading cause of death. People who have it live an average of 4 to 8 years, but depending on other factors, they may live as long as 20 years.
Middle to Late-Stage Symptoms
As the disease affects more of the brain, it leads to more severe symptoms such as mood and behavior changes, deepening confusion about time, place, and events, paranoia about professional caregivers and loved ones, greater memory loss, and difficulty with basic motor functions like speaking, swallowing, and walking.
Memory Care Facilities Like Avista Senior Living Help Alzheimer’s Patients
Loved ones in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s need specialized care of the kind found at memory care facilities. These facilities are designed with their memory struggles in mind, with simple layouts and safeguards to prevent them from wandering. And, of course, there are staff members with specialized training to work with Alzheimer’s residents.