Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory and behavior. While it mostly affects older adults, it can appear in people who are in their 40s and 50s.
It is estimated that approximately 5.3 million Americans suffer from this terrible disease. It is a progressive disease, in that it worsens over time.
At first, an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may suffer mild memory loss. Over time, sadly, dementia symptoms worsen and individuals lose their ability to carry on a conversation or perform tasks that used to be handled with ease.
While currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, treatment for symptoms is available. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can, for a limited time, treat symptoms such as memory loss and confusion.
In addition to medicine, some researchers believe that the onset of advanced symptoms can be delayed through exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Other research has shown that some patients benefited cognitively with art and music therapy.
Like with other diseases, early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important. While the onset of the disease cannot be stopped or reversed, early diagnosis gives a patient a better chance of benefiting from treatment.
Early diagnosis also gives the patient and his or her family more time to plan for the future and allows the patient to be involved in decisions about care, transportation, living options, and financial and legal matters.
Planning is important because of the significant amount of care that is needed for an individual with Alzheimer’s.
Raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease will help bring understanding and might give people the ability to spot signs of the disease.
Famous past leaders like Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s and his willingness to share his diagnosis helped people understand that the disease does not discriminate.
He expressed hope that by sharing his story, it would help build a constructive national conversation and a clearer understanding of people affected by this awful disease.