As America grows older, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will increase significantly.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is currently the sixth-leading cause of death, afflicting 1 in 8 Americans and costing our health care system $200 billion annually.
Alzheimer's is a slowly progressive disease and, in the early stages, it is no more than a mild disability.
Though short-term memory may be lost, other intellectual functions are retained, and with protection and support from family members and the community, a person with the disease can have many years of productive, high-quality life.
This requires making the diagnosis as soon as possible.
Sadly, too many patients receive no more than a pill as treatment; an accurate diagnosis is often not made; and potentially treatable causes of dementia are missed.
To ensure the best quality of life, it is essential, if memory loss is suspected, that the patient be evaluated and treated by specialists who are skilled at making a diagnosis.
A skilled team — including neuropsychologists, social workers and pharmacists — is needed to provide day-to-day Alzheimer's care and education.
The initial step in care is an evaluation by a physician who performs a detailed history and examination and then develops a plan of care, the least important component of which is the prescription of medications currently approved to help treat Alzheimer’s and other conditions leading to memory loss.
Usually, talking to the patient and family members will strongly suggest a problem.
As with children, “it takes a village” to care for a patient with memory loss.
A highly trained team of health care professionals is needed to provide the Alzheimer's care and support for the patient and the family dealing with this difficult illness.
For more information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.