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Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type

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Dementia is not a disease. It is a general term for decline that describes a broad range of symptoms connected with decline in mental ability or thinking skills. Some conditions causing dementia symptoms are reversible. The symptoms of dementia may greatly vary in the harm they cause to the core mental functions. Alzheimer's disease is a form of the dementia. The decline in mental ability severely interferes with the daily life activities (Kuhn, 2003).

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Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with the mental thinking and behavior. Its symptoms are progressive. That is why they start gradually and slowly get worse over time. It is not a part of normal aging though increasing ages is a risk factor. In the early stages, memory loss is mild. In the later stages, conversation and respond to qualities disappear. People suffering from Alzheimer's disease can averagely live for 8 years since the first symptoms became visible. This may vary from 4 to 20 years depending on age and other health related problems.

According to Ali (2012), Alzheimer's disease causes damage to brain cells. The high levels of some proteins found both outside and inside the brain cells influence the condition of the cells. The hippocampus is the center of memory and learning. The cells in this area are often the first to be destroyed. This explains why memory loss is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease. Most of the conditions caused by this dementia are treatable overtime. These conditions include medication side effects, depression, excess use of alcohol, vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid problems.

The dementia symptoms vary in different stages. These stages divide into the following categories: 1) no impairment; 2) very mild decline; 3) mild decline; 4) moderate decline; 5) severe moderate decline; 6) severe decline;7) and very severe decline.

In stage 1, there are no noticeable mental impairments. In stage 2, the patient can experience memory lapses though no medical examination can detect the presence of AlzheimerВ’s disease. In stage 3, doctors can be able to detect its presence. Families and friends begin to observe problems in concentration (Ali, 2012). These may include visible problems with choosing appropriate words and remembering names of the people they are introduced to.

In stage 4, medical interviews detect obvious symptoms in some areas. These symptoms include forgetfulness of oneВ’s own history and recent events, difficulty performing challenging mental arithmetic and complex tasks, and becoming moody and withdrawn in social challenging situations. In stage 5, there are noticeable gaps in thinking and memory. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease need assistance with daily activities. They are unable to recollect their own telephone numbers or address. They become contrasted about their age and may need help in choosing proper dressing. However, at this stage, the individuals can still remember essential details about their families. They also do not need assistance in natural activities like eating and toileting.

In stage 6, memory loss continues. There is a need for assistance in daily activities since individuals lose awareness on recent activities and their personal history. They can discern unfamiliar and familiar faces but experience difficulty in remembering their names. These affected persons undergo significant changes in sleep patterns and no control over their bladder and bowel movements. They even need assistance in toileting.

In the final 7 stage of Alzheimer's, people lose the ability to carry out a conversation and respond to the environment. They need help in all daily activities since muscles get rigid, reflexes become abnormal, and swallowing is impaired. However, these people can still say some words and phrases (Kuhn, 2003).

It is important to take note of the early signs and not ignore them. When someone experiences these signs, he or she should seek for medical examinations. There are ten warning signs of Alzheimer's disease which include:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily activities. In early stages, these are characterized by forgetting recent events, repeatedly asking for the same information, and relying on memory aides like electrical devices.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problem. Changes may occur in the ability to develop future plans and concentrating rates.

3. Difficult completing familiar tasks at home and workplace, thus one may need assistance to complete daily tasks.

4. Confusion in time or place. This involves losing track of dates, seasons, and time. Sick persons also failed to remember days of the week.

5. Trouble in understanding visual images and spatial relationship. This involves challenges that are visual, for example, in reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast.

6. New problems with words either in speaking or following up a conversation. This involves constant repeating of words and the same information, struggling with vocabulary, and stopping in the middle of conversation.

7. Losing the ability to retrace steps and misplacing things. This sign involves placing things in unusual places. In extreme cases, one cannot retrace the lost items again.

8. Decreased and poor judgment. It is a warning sign that changes the way the patient makes decisions. For instance, the patient pays less attention to grooming and staying clean.

9. Withdrawal of work and social activities like keeping up with their favorite sports.

10. Moods and personality changes. These signs make the individuals to become confused, suspicious, depressed anxious, and easily upset (Kuhn, 2003).

The Alzheimer's disease is mostly triggered by age. Most individuals suffering from this type of dementia are above 65 years. However, this condition may be experienced by younger people aged 40-50. This type is termed as younger onset Alzheimer's disease. Genetics is another risk factor contributing to this condition. In this case, it is referred as familial Alzheimer's disease. Many family members in multiple generations are affected.

It is impossible to change the risk factors of age and genetics; however, it is possible to reduce and prevent them. These factors include cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet. The same strategies followed to protect the heart should also be carried on the brain. This is due to the interconnection of the functions of the heart and the brain cells. Physical fitness lowers the risk of dementia by increasing blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Healthy diet is important with emphasis on Mediterranean diets that consists mostly of vegetables, fish and whole grains and less red meat.

There is no one accurate test to diagnose Alzheimer's. It is mainly based on a careful medical history, physical examination, lab tests, and characteristics changes in thinking and daily behaviors. Although doctors can certainly detect the presence of the dementia, it is hard to determine the exact type. This is due to the fact that the symptoms of different dementia types can overlap. There is a need to seek for services of specialists like neurologists.

It can be frustrating and long process to diagnose dementia. The caregivers and doctors do not emphatically look for Alzheimer's in young people with early onset. They may be in any stage of the disease either early, middle or late stage. Symptoms may also be a result of stress. Different health care professionals can give conflicting diagnosis. The diagnosis involves comprehensive evaluation by the doctors. The doctors use medical exams, cognitive tests, neurological exam or brain imaging.

Memory loss related issues do not always mean the presence of a dementia. For accurate identification of the condition, mental impairments should be considered. This is relevant to effect on short memory, communication and language, the ability to focus attention and give reasonable judgment.

There is no treatment that slows down or stops Alzheimer's since the symptoms are progressive. Determining the causes of specific dementia is also a setback. There are drug treatments to improve condition temporarily. Non-drug therapies are also useful in alleviating the signs of dementia. The path to effective treatments will be through increased research funding and participation in clinical studies. Maximum benefits from available treatments provide an opportunity to volunteer for clinical studies and trials.

There is a wide range of evidences that show the impact of dementia on nursing, caregivers, and the nation as a whole. Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of deaths in the USA. More than 5 million people are living with the disease. These people are of 65 years and older. There are approximately 200,000 young individuals with early onset Alzheimer's.

Nearly 15% of caregivers for people with the disease live quite a long distance away. In 2012, 15.4 million caregivers provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion. In 2013, Alzheimer will cost the nation $ 203 billion. This number is expected to rise to $ 1.2 trillion by 2050 (Mebane-Sims, 2009).

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Nearly 30% of individuals with dementia are on Medicare and Medicaid compared to 11% of individuals without these conditions. The average cost per person with this disease is three times higher than per healthy person.

Alzheimer's and other types of dementia are conditions that require extensive research. The number of volunteers should increase to support clinical tests and trials. Individuals living with these diseases need carefully assistance in all stages. Such people should also observe personal preventive measures like maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking.

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