Alzheimer disease is popularly known as the disease of the old age. As one grows old, the risk of suffering from the disease increases. The disease is slowly progressive; it affects the brain, and is characterized by impaired memory, followed by disturbances in reasoning, thinking, planning, and perception (Crystal, n.d.). The possibility of having Alzheimer disease increases after the age of 70 years; nearly 50 percent of seniors aged ≥ 85 years can have the disease. In any case, it is not a normal phenomenon and not a normal part of aging. Researchers believe that the disease is due to nerve cell death that can happen due to an increased production of a specific protein known as the beta amyloid protein. Development of the disease can also be due to genetic factors.
Approximately 2 to 5 percent of Alzheimer disease patients develop the disease in their late forties or fifties, of which almost half of them are seen to have inherited gene mutations associated with the disease. Importantly, off springs of such patients with early onset Alzheimer's disease have a 50 percent risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in their life. For late onset cases too, a genetic risk is identified (Crystal, n.d.).
Facts about the disease (Alzheimer Association, 2013):
- Alzheimer disease is the sixth leading cause of mortality in the USA
- Approximately 5.2 million Americans are currently living with the disorder
- Mortality in one out of three is due to Alzheimer disease or some other type of dementia
- Deaths due to the disease increased 68% from 2000 to 2010, while deaths due to other major diseases (including heart disease) have decreased
Issues related to the disease
Life is not easy for the patient as well his family/caregiver. It can be emotionally wrenching for the patient as well as those around him. It is a great challenge for a person who is a caregiver to an Alzheimer disease patient. It can be a distressing experience, but self reassurance can help in reducing the patient’s troublesome behavior. One needs to educate the family caregiver on the disease so that he is able to handle the patient with greater confidence. A well trained care giver can aid in reducing the use of medicines such as antipsychotics for the patient (Crystal, n.d.).
Certain home safety measures need to be taken by the family and caregivers, like checking the safety of home to control potential problems that may be hazardous. Instead of trying to change the behavior of the patient, it is more effective to change the environment, to whatever extent possible. Also, keeping the environment safe to maximize independence of the patient and increase his mobility helps to a lot of extent. If there is a need to leave the patient alone at home, an input from the patient’s treating physician is essential, which will need ongoing evaluation as the disease progresses with age (National Institute of Aging, 2010).
For newly diagnosed Alzheimer disease patients, the healthcare professional needs to encourage the patient to examine and update the healthcare arrangements along with the financial arrangements to ensure that the patient’s end stage healthcare is carried out smoothly. An Alzheimer disease patient lacks or gradually loses the ability to think clearly. The decision making ability is impaired; and therefore, early legal and financial planning becomes important. As a first step, one can gather everything one can about income, insurance, investments, property, and savings and put such important papers in one place and keep a trusted family member or friend informed about it. A review and update of such files, regularly, helps the patient as well as everyone around (National Institute of Aging, 2010).
Health Care Reform and Alzheimer disease
The disease is a challenge that the nation is facing. Several provisions of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” signed in 2010 will help patients with Alzheimer disease as well as their families/ caregivers. A new addition to the act in 2011 reveals provision of an annual wellness benefit for all qualifying Medicare beneficiaries, which involves mandatory “detection of cognitive impairment” as a part of annual wellness visit (Alzheimer Association, 2012).
A new website has been developed by the Department of Health and Human Services to help Alzheimer disease patients find what health insurance options are available in their communities (Alzheimer Association, 2012).
National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) signed in 2011 makes the disease a national priority like some other diseases like HIV/AIDS and stroke. It will allow the government to assess if the nation is meeting the challenges of the disease for the patient, families, community, and the economy. The first ever National Alzheimer's Plan released by NAPA in May 2012 outlines the important goal of effectively preventing Alzheimer's disease by 2025 (National Alzheimer’s Project Act, n.d.). There are also quite a few caregiver resource centers, which offer services designed to assist caregivers e.g., National Center on Caregiving, Ethnic Elders Care Network, and National Institute of Aging etc.
In my opinion, the responsibility of caring for the patient lies on the closest family member. In addition to caring for the patient, one has also to cope with patient’s personality changes like behavioral and mood disorders. It is important to provide a much – needed support to the family member who is the caregiver for the patient. The treating physician can perhaps help ensure that unusual behaviors can be managed. The psychological status of the caregiver needs to be carefully watched. If they experience some psychological issues they may not provide the best care to the patient.
Alzheimer’s takes many years to develop and the cause is still unclear. Besides, there is no cure currently available and drugs available offer a symptomatic relief. Government should ideally look at encouraging early detection and diagnosis of the disease, which demands increased public awareness. States should also look at expanding the capacity of the health care system so that the growing number and growing needs of the patients is taken care of. Research around the objective of offering a cure for the disease also needs to be increased, which demands increased funding from the government, so also improvement in policies to help patients and their families.
Crystal, H., (n.d.) Alzheimer disease. MedicineNet.com. Retrieved from: http://www.medicinenet.com/alzheimers_disease_causes_stages_and_symptoms/page3.htm; Accessed: 04th April, 2013
Alzheimer Association. (2013) Latest Facts and Figures Report. Retrieved from: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp; accessed: 04th April 2013
Home Safety for People with Alzheimer's Disease. (2010) National Institute of Aging. National Institute of Health. Retreived from: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/home-safety-people-alzheimers-disease/general-safety-concerns; Updated: November 2011; Accessed: 04th April 2013
Legal and Financial Planning for People with Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet. (2010) National Institute of Aging. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/home-safety-people-alzheimers-disease/general-safety-concerns; Updated: August 2012; Accessed: 04th April, 2013.
Health Care Reform and Alzheimer’s Disease. (2012) Alzheimer Association. Retrieved from: http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_healthcare_reform.asp; Accessed: 04th April 2013.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). (n.d.) Alzheimer Association. Retrieved from: http://napa.alz.org/national-alzheimers-project-act-backgroun; Accessed: 04th April 2013.