World Alzheimer’s Day 2022: Know dementia, learn about Alzheimer’s

Contributed by: Anjali Sharma

Understanding Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a condition that negatively affects memory, the ability to think, and the ability to communicate effectively. People with Alzheimer’s may also experience language problems and impulsive or unpredictable behavior.

According to a study conducted by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), there were about 3.7 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in India in 2010 and the number is expected to rise to 7.6 million by 2030. Currently, about 5.3 million Indians live with dementia, and the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease.

The condition usually affects people age 65 and older, but it can also affect the brain health of people in their 30s or 40s. When anyone under the age of 65 develops Alzheimer’s disease, the condition is called early-onset (or young-onset) Alzheimer’s disease.

The disease gets its name from Dr. Alios Alzheimer who identified the condition in 1906. World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on 21st September every year and the theme for 2021 is ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’.

In this article, we will reflect on the causes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and what steps you can take to manage the condition once diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors

Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, experts have identified several risk factors, including:

People age 65 and older are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is slightly higher if you have a parent or sibling with the condition.

Having one or both of these risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop the disease, but it does increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s symptoms

Being a progressive condition, Alzheimer’s symptoms worsen over time. Symptoms do not occur all at once and appear gradually over months or years. If symptoms develop within a few hours or days, immediate medical attention is required as it may be a sign of a stroke. These symptoms include:

  • Repeat the question or conversation
  • Losing track of everyday objects
  • Inability to remember appointments or events
  • Wander or get lost
  • Low understanding of safety and risk
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty completing stage-based tasks, such as getting dressed
  • Problems with recognition
  • Problems speaking, reading or writing
  • Personality and behavior, such as being compulsive, angry, irritable, or losing interest in activities

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that includes three stages:

At this stage, Alzheimer’s-affected individuals have memory problems and cognitive difficulties.

In this stage, affected individuals suffer damage to the part of the brain responsible for language, senses, reasoning and consciousness.

This late stage of Alzheimer’s is a condition in which sufferers develop plaques and tangles in the brain, causing the destruction of brain tissue. Plaques are clumps of protein (beta-amyloid) found in the brain that disrupt communication between nerve cells. Tangles are abnormal accumulations of protein (tau) inside neurons.

How to best manage Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder and unfortunately, there is no cure yet. However, there are medications available that can help delay the progression of dementia symptoms and manage behavioral problems. However, some management strategies can also be practiced to help manage the effects of Alzheimer’s

Here are some tips for caregivers/relatives of Alzheimer’s patients:

  • Keep things simple and ask or say one thing at a time
  • Maintain a daily routine to help the patient understand where certain things occur
  • Gain the patient’s trust that he is safe with you
  • Learn about their feelings from their expressions. For example- say, “You seem worried!” And wait for the reply
  • Do not try to argue or reason with the patient
  • Do not show frustration or anger towards the patient
  • Make the patient smile whenever possible
  • If the patient is in the habit of walking, move him to a safe place to walk
  • Have the patient eat some light snacks while walking. This will help prevent weight loss
  • Try to distract the patient with light music, singing, dancing or any other activity that makes him happy.
  • Ask the patient for help with simple household tasks such as folding clothes or setting the table for meals to keep their motor skills active

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

If a person has Alzheimer’s, he or she may experience personality and behavior changes that are initially noticed by friends or family members. If the symptoms are similar to those mentioned above, the doctor can diagnose the following diseases.

  • Cognitive and memory tests: This will help understand the patient’s ability to think and remember.
  • Neurological function tests: To test the patient’s balance, senses and reflexes
  • Blood and urine tests
  • A brain CT scan or MRI scan

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Last thought

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that still has no cure, and it can affect anyone age 65 or older. If a person exhibits the above-mentioned symptoms, it is recommended to seek medical advice immediately and start Alzheimer’s management to slow the progression of the disease.

The above tips can help to manage the condition effectively at home. To effectively manage Alzheimer’s, you need to monitor the patient’s overall health by opting for regular overall health screening.

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