What Is Alzheimer's

Living With Alzheimer's

WHAT IS ALZHEIMERS? - Things you need to know

Alzheimer’s disease was first discovered by Dr Alois Alzheimer in 1906 after noting severe brain damage in the brain of a woman who died from severe mental illness. Previously undiagnosed, all the trademark signs of Alzheimer’s disease were visible. These include Amyloid Plaques, which are abnormal clumps in the brain matter, and Neurofibrillary Tangles, which are tangled fibers within the brain.

A short answer to the question - what Alzheimer’s - would be, irreversible dementia. Dementia is when your cognitive or mental abilities which help us process information our brains receive from external stimuli, diminishes. This will result in some of or all of the following:

Memory loss
Difficulty in solving problems
Inability in completing familiar tasks
Time and place confusion
Visual conception problems
Problems with writing and speaking
Inability to retrace steps mentally
Poor judgment
Social withdrawal
Mood and personality changes

Although it is hard to answer the question - What is Alzheimers? - the main feature of Alzheimer’s is that the nerve cells within the brain die. This is caused due to the fact that the connection between the neurons are interrupted or completely blocked. In advanced Alzheimer’s, the brain tissue is shrunk tremendously.

A worrying factor about Alzheimer’s disease is it is a slowly developing disease. You can have a light to mildly developed form of Alzheimer’s up to 20 years before you are clinically diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s disease usually appears in the elderly population. Only 2-4% of Alzheimer’s sufferers are between the ages of 40 and 50. In people over the age of 65, the percentage of Alzheimer’s sufferers is 10% and above 85 years, 50%. All Down Syndrome patients will show signs of Alzheimer’s by the time they reach 40 years of age.

There seems to be no particular causes of Alzheimer’s disease, but it has been noted that individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and coronary artery diseases might be at higher risk. Also, 50% of people with parents who had Alzheimer’s end up with the disease, so there is a definite genetic link.

Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, but can be treated and managed to provide some form of relief for patients. The two options available are medicated treatment and non- medicated treatment. With medicated treatment, there are basically two options available:

1.The continued use of Cholinesterase inhibitors which stops the process of acetylcholine in the brain which allows impulses to pass between the nerves in the brain, thus enabling the patient to shape new memories.

2.Partial glutamate antagonists inhibit the production of glutamates in the brain which in turn, can slow down the deterioration of brain cells.

Non- medicated treatment is where the patient is exposed to social activities in a non- pressuring environment which offers the opportunity to exercise, sing, dance, walk and communicate with others.

What is Alzheimers? It is a debilitating and frustrating form of dementia for those who are diagnosed with it. For their loved ones, it can be extremely traumatic to helplessly watch as they fade away from reality and become someone who is not recognizable anymore. It is important therefore that all efforts are madeto see that Alzheimer’s sufferers are treated with understanding and respect, and in such, can hold onto the dignity they deserve.