September 21st was World Alzheimer's Day: a day to raise awareness about Alzheimer's and bring light to common symptoms and risk factors. With more than 6 million Americans living with this disease, many people, throughout their lives, will know someone who eventually develops Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer's?
Most people have heard the term Alzheimer's, whether in pop culture or from a personal experience with a loved one. However, Alzheimer's and dementia are two terms often mixed up because they coincide, but they are not the same thing.
Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. This disease is the most common cause of dementia, with 60-80% of all dementia cases resulting from Alzheimer's.
So, while these terms are often used interchangeably, Alzheimer's is the disease while dementia is just a symptom of it, and a general term for a decline in mental ability. There are many types of dementia, including Down Syndrome, Huntington's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease. So, Alzheimer's is just one type of dementia, albeit the most common one.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's
When you have an aging loved one, it is important to be conscious of the symptoms of Alzheimer's in case your loved one begins to show signs of them.
There are ten early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's.
memory loss that disrupts daily life
difficulty planning or solving problems
challenges completing familiar tasks
time or place confusion
difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
new problems with words when speaking or writing
misplacing things and unable to retrace steps
decreased or poor judgment
withdrawal from work or social activities
changes in personality and mood
Importance of Early Detection
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, there are other benefits to early detection.
At this point in time, there is only one treatment option that can help reduce the cognitive and functional decline in those living with early Alzheimer's. Other treatments can help lessen other symptoms of Alzheimer's, such as confusion and memory loss, but only for a limited time. So, the earlier Alzheimer's is diagnosed, the more likely your loved one can use and benefit from these treatments.
Planning for the Future
An earlier Alzheimer's diagnosis gives you and your loved one more time to plan for the future. As Alzheimer's progresses, individuals lose their ability to make important decisions. So, an early diagnosis allows your loved one to give input on issues such as care and financial matters before the disease progresses too far.
Some lifestyle changes, if implemented, may help preserve cognitive function in those with Alzheimer's. Some of these changes include controlling blood pressure, exercising, stopping smoking, and staying mentally and socially active.
Alzheimer's affects many people both directly and indirectly. However, it can still be challenging to know what to do if it begins to show its signs in your loved one. If you're not sure what your next actions should be or how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer's, give Long Life Care Management a call at (404) 310-3567, and we can help you figure out what to do next.