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Alzheimer’s Disease: Definition, Facts, Symptoms & Treatment Options

September 23, 2021

At one time or another, we’ve all forgotten the name of a friend’s spouse or absentmindedly misplaced our house keys. It happens to everyone, and it can be a normal part of aging

But there’s a point where the problem goes beyond normal forgetfulness and may hint at something else much more serious: Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s defined

People often ask what Alzheimer’s disease is, and tend to refer to it as “dementia.” But this isn’t entirely accurate.

Dementia itself isn’t a disease; it’s a general term for a cognitive decline severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia describes a group of symptoms that impact memory, thinking, communication abilities and the performance of everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and accounts for anywhere from 60% to 80% of all types of dementia diagnoses.

Alzheimer’s is a disease. It’s a progressive brain disorder that slowly erodes memory and thinking skills, and eventually robs a person of their ability to carry out simple tasks. People with Alzheimer’s don’t actually die from the disease; complications from the decline in brain function are what eventually lead to death.

It may also help to understand that some troubles with memory can be attributed to aging. The National Institute on Aging has a helpful comparison list to help people understand the differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease:

      Normal Aging                Alzheimer’s Disease

Making a bad decision once in a whileMaking poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time
Missing a monthly paymentProblems taking care of monthly bills
Forgetting which day it is; remembering laterLosing track of the date or time of year
Sometimes forgetting which word to useTrouble having a conversation
Losing things from time to timeMisplacing things often and being unable to find them

 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

The symptoms of this progressive disease may start years before an actual diagnosis is made. Typically, issues with memory is the first noticeable symptom, but there are several other symptoms as well:

  • Difficulty concentrating and thinking
  • Decline in the ability to make reasonable decisions and judgments
  • Struggling with activities that require sequential steps, such as meal planning or playing a favorite game
  • Changes in personality and behavior

Other conditions can result in memory loss or cause dementia-like symptoms. If you’re noticing these symptoms in yourself or someone else, talk with your doctor about getting a thorough assessment and diagnosis.

Though there are options that can manage symptoms, and treatments that may change progression, it’s important to remember there is no known cure yet for Alzheimer’s. As the disease advances, it may be time for family members to consider finding a professional memory care setting for their loved one.

Treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease

In June of 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aducanumab, the first new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since 2003. It was approved using the accelerated approval pathway, which can be used for a drug for a serious or life-threatening illness that provides a meaningful therapeutic advantage over existing treatments. 

Aducanumab is the first therapy to show that removing amyloid, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, from the brain is reasonably likely to reduce cognitive and functional decline in people living with early Alzheimer’s. It also underscores the importance of early detection and diagnosis. 

Other benefits of early detection and diagnosis include:

  • More time to plan for the future with family and friends
  • Greater opportunities to participate in clinical trials
  • Time to make financial and legal arrangements

Find answers and support from Episcopal SeniorLife Communities

As mentioned before, Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80% of all dementia types, and affects more than six million Americans. But these are more than just statistics — the numbers may represent your neighbors, your older relatives, your spouse’s parents, possibly even you. In an Alzheimer’s journey, no one should walk alone. Ensure you are accessing information from credible sources, talk to physicians and, if the time comes, when choosing additional support outside the home like a memory care residence – do your research. Senior Living Consultants at Episcopal SeniorLife Communities are experienced and knowledgeable, they are dedicated to helping those in need of assisted living or memory care every step along the way.

To find a community nearest you or speak to a senior living consultant, contact us or call us at 585.546.8400. We’re always here to provide you with guidance and support.

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