Alzheimer’s disease is characteristically due to old age, very rarely appearing before the age of 60.
It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for about 50% to 70% of all cases of dementia. It is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterised by a reduction in the number and size of brain cells that irreversibly deteriorates the cognitive functions of patients.
Language, thinking, attention and concentration are some of the functions affected by the disease that leads to the death of brain cells and the breakdown of communication within the brain.
The most common Alzheimer’s disease is sporadic and is not related to the prevalence of the disease in the family, but a small number of patients have a type of Familial Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with a genetic mutation in one of the parents.
There are no known causes of Alzheimer’s disease, with the exception of Familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
▪ Memory. The family begin to notice that patients have difficulty remembering recent events or information. Memory for more distant events or facts is typically conserved in the early stages of the disease.
▪ Language. Difficulty in finding suitable words, reduced vocabulary and, in more advanced stages, there is an impoverishment of the speech content.
▪ Difficulty performing familiar tasks. In more advanced stages of the disease, patients have difficulty performing simple tasks such as dressing, feeding or combing their hair.
▪ Impaired judgement, personality and behaviour. People who were calm become hostile and aggressive, and other patients become very passive.
▪ Difficulty in performing complex tasks such as paying bills and handling money.
▪ Psychotic and depressive symptoms.
▪ Disorientation and getting lost in known places.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease inevitably progresses, although this development is highly variable. In turn, the average survival rate after diagnosis varies between three and eight years, although most people with Alzheimer’s disease do not die from the disease itself, but from secondary diseases such as respiratory infections, urinary infections or complications after a fall.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there is therapy that reduces the speed of the disease’s evolution and improves the patient’s quality of life, namely cognitive rehabilitation through exercises that aim to exercise memory, attention and other cognitive functions and even physical exercise to reduce the risk of falls.
Finally, a very important aspect is the person’s safety. It is essential to ensure safety, as many patients do not recognise their symptoms and limitations and try to maintain their daily activities.
Other precautions include: developing and monitoring a plan for the administration of medication. The patient must stop driving and cooking, as these are dangerous activities. Eliminating obstacles in the house, such as loose electrical wires and slippery carpets. Provide a light and airy environment.
It is very important that family members learn how to deal with the disease/patient and not be shy about asking for help. Being patient, involving all family members and dividing tasks is crucial to avoid frustration, discouragement or exhaustion.
Article submitted by the HPA Group