Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

October 15, 2019
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

October 15, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is Dementia?
Dementia is an overall term for a set of diseases that affect memory, language, thinking, routine abilities, and behaviour. Dementia includes Alzheimer’s disease and a number of other ailments.

Other forms of dementia you are most likely to hear about include:
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It typically occurs with age and is associated with impaired blood flow to the brain.
Lewy body dementia causes disorientation and weakness because of protein deposits on nerve cells. The deposits interfere with messages getting to the brain. Some Lewy body symptoms are similar to those of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Dementia associated with advanced Parkinson’s disease can cause visual and verbal confusion with hallucinations. A person may become irritable and depressed as the disease advances.
Frontotemporal dementia can occur in people who are in their 40s. It seems to run in families with those affected losing motivation while becoming compulsive.

Rates of Dementia in Canada
In 2018, the Alzheimer Society of Canada reported that over one half million Canadians were afflicted with dementia. This number is projected to increase to close to one million by 2031, with about 25,000 new cases each year.

As stated by Alzheimer Society Canada, this disease is not a typical part of aging. It is named for the physician who first described it in 1906. It is estimated that 60-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, often referred to as AD.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
As stated by Alzheimer Society Canada, this disease is not a typical part of aging. It is named for the physician who first described it in 1906. It is estimated that 60-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, often referred to as AD.
With AD, brain cells gradually deteriorate and die due to the actions of plaques and tangles, each made up of different proteins. Plaques are toxic deposits that interfere with brain cell function and life. Tangles interrupt cell vitality, eventually choking them off. This damage shrinks parts of the brain, causing the life disruptions and sad decline observed in those with the disease.

Are there Warning Signs?
Although people often joke about forgetfulness, this is one AD warning sign. There are several that are worthy of serious consideration. That is because an early diagnosis can help with treatment options that support quality of life. Signs to watch for are:
Memory loss, language troubles, and misplacing things.
Trouble with tasks, getting lost, or losing interest in loved ones and favorite activities.
Impaired judgment and issues with abstract thinking, such as using your cell phone.
Increased mood swings, upsetting behaviors, and personality changes.
Talk with a loved one and/or healthcare provider if you observe these in yourself or someone you care about.

A Summary of AD Stages
AD has four stages that begin with the early stage and progress to the end of life stage.
During the early and middle stages a person’s memory, communication, and mood concerns give way to a decline in thinking ability during the middle stage. The person with AD needs help with daily activities such as dressing, personal hygiene, and household tasks.
Further decline occurs during the late or advanced stage when a person needs round-the-clock care. People in this stage are unable to communicate or take care of themselves. This lapses into the closing months of life when a person needs the support of those with a terminal illness.

AD Treatment
There is currently no cure for any of the dementia diseases, including AD. People are advised to work closely with their physician and dementia specialists to stay informed regarding treatment options. This includes discussing any supplements or alternative care, assuring that any potential negative interactions are avoided.

What is Early Onset Alzheimer’s?
Early onset AD begins when a person is younger than 65, with symptoms usually starting in a person’s 40s or 50s. A small percent of people who develop early AD have the common type of the disease. Others have a familial form that is linked with specific genes. Although only 1% of people diagnosed with AD have this form, it represents the majority of those with early onset.

Caring for Someone with Dementia or AD
People with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones face a number of challenges that vary with disease progression. These include physical, social-emotional, caregiving, and financial considerations. It is wise to plan ahead for home safety and the wellbeing of all involved.
Home safety assessment, planning for home care, and learning what to expect as the disease progresses help with the decisions you will make. Family and friend caregivers benefit from respite time that allows them to refresh and relieve stress. There is evidence that promoting compassionate love helps to mediate caregiver burden. Families and friends in the caregiving role benefit from tenderness, support, and caring concern. Senior home care services are one means for providing such care.

Ways to Care for Your Brain
Caring for your whole body is the primary way to care for your brain. Interestingly, not following guidelines like these puts one at risk for AD or other dementia. Here’s a summary of healthy practices to begin today, if you haven’t done so already:
Get your exercise
Eat whole foods, emphasizing grains, veggies, and fruits
Limit sugar, sodium, and processed foods
Avoid harmful substances of all sorts
Limit and manage stress
Laugh a lot
Watch your numbers, such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol
Continue to learn; participate in your community

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
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