Friday, April 11, 2008

Health Care and Alzheimers

People who suffer from Alzheimer's disease have a health care challenge that is unlike many medical needs that can be easily diagnosed. Often, the slow decline into this state of dementia is initially difficult to understand and recognize. In days gone by, it used to be called "Old-timer's disease" as it was usually seen in senior citizens who could no longer remember anything or who had memory problems causing them to forget names, place, activities, and simple tasks. Those folks just were made fun of by younger people, or they were just viewed as being a little crazy. In those times, if you had it, you didn't have many resources to help you through it.

Over the last decade, significant research has been done to shed light on this medical malady. No longer is it a disease that is kept behind closed doors or whispered in hushed tones. With the advent of available resources that have focused attention on Alzheimer's, Americans can find help to deal with the problems associated with the disease. The recent deaths of actor Charlton Heston and former President Ronald Reagan have brought attention front and center in the news headlines that talk openly about how Alzheimers affects not only those who suffer from it but also those who are their caretakers.

Alzheimer's currently affects over 5.2 million Americans, and the leading edge of Baby Boomers who are now rapidly approaching the senior citizen age bracket will see increased people who will suffer from it in the coming decade. The Alzheimer's Association forecasts that 1o million Boomers will contract the disease.

The brain disorder was diagnosed in 1906 by a German physician. According to the Mayo Clinic website, the disease is inevitably terminal. Medications can ease symptoms and delay the progress of Alzheimer's. However, there is no known cure. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells and leads to loss of memory and cognitive behavior, and it progressively gets worse over time. This disease is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States according to the Alzheimer's Association.

The majority of what is currently known about Alzheimer's has only been learned in the last 15 years, but progress is slowly being made. A worldwide effort to find better ways to treat the disease, slow down its progression, and prevent it from happening is being undertaken. Researchers are working on finding new ways to treat the disease and improve the quality of life for those who are afflicted. It is important to have a primary physician diagnose the disease as early as possible if someone is exhibiting symptoms.

As we age, the brain changes and slows down in the thinking and memory processes. Serious memory loss, though, along with significant confusion and dementia may be a sign that someone may be suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. Early on-set Alzheimer's usually effects people under the age of 65 who may still have children at home or are still employed. Experts think this stage of Alzheimer's may be present in over 500,000 adults in their 30's, 40's and 50's according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Alzheimer's Disease, the most common form of dementia in senior citizens, begins slowly and involves the section of the brain that control language, memory, and the thought process. It affects your ability to do simple everyday tasks. The illness starts with the patient having difficulty remembering recent events or people they know. As it progresses, Alzheimer's causes the sufferer to not recognize family members or close friends or have trouble talking or reading. Rembering how to do simple daily activities like brushing your teeth may be next. Later stage Alzheimer's symptoms are more serious, such as severe anxiety, very aggressive behavior, or wandering away from home. At some point, the patient will need total care for all of their physical needs. Late stage Alzheimer's eventually results in the loss of the ability to eat, toilet, walk, smile, and swallow--then death happens when the muscles become rigid.

Several studies have been released recently that indicate possible increased risks for Alzheimer's Disease. The American Academy of Neurology has stated that people who have depression area more likely to develop the illness than those who have never had depression. Another risk related to the onset of Alzheimer's is a mid-life development of diabetes that increases the possibility of getting this form of dementia. A key factor was noticed who had low levels of insulin secretion capacity of men over 50 years of age in the study group. Another study of people with large amounts of abdominal fat indicated that they are three times likely to develop severe dementia.

Alzheimer's reduces the overall quality of life for the patient. Sleep problems are common, and people suffering from the disease also wander at some point during the progression of it. In addition to the other symptoms that patients suffer, a very common concern is family conflict. As caretakers struggle to deal with the situation a range of emotions including fear, confusion, anger, and sadness occur. The disease creates high levels of stress in families. The Mayo Clinic website has alot of material about Alzheimer's and how to deal with someone who has it.

Some key ways to deal with a family member who has the illness is to learn how to share responsibilities, talk regularly about options, be honest about feelings, and keep from criticizing other family members. Don't let Alzheimer's rob you of relationships with others. Learn how to deal with the disease. Make sure you educate yourself on the disease and how to handle the role of a caretaker. For those who suffer with Alzheimer's, the disease is very scary. For those who play a key part in taking care of someone who has Alzheimer's, it can be exhausting and difficult. Choose to make the best of a situation that is one of the most challenging issues in health care. Be more loving, more caring, more understanding, more patient, and more educated on how to live with it. Ask for help if you need it, and don't be ashamed that you need it. Accept assistance from others who can help, and learn to find ways to manage the eventual outcome. Pray for miracles (even little ones), and rejoice when they happen.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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