Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that affects the brain cells. It begins with problems with the individual’s memory, which later on advances to mental dysfunction. Individuals who suffer from the disease experience a slow, but steady loss of memory. They also exhibit changes in behavior and personality, including problems with their language skills, and sense of judgment. If they were once focused and determined as individuals, they gradually show signs of having problems with concentrating. At the moment, Alzheimer’s is said to be the most common form of dementia that the United States of America suffers from. With growing number of aging population, it is estimated that there will be more than 10 million Americans suffering from the disease by 2050, which is more than double of the current number of patients (De Fina, Moser, Glenn, Lichtenstein, & Fellus, 2013).
Development of the disease varies from one patient to another. For some, symptoms develop quickly, which means progression of the disease will be sudden as well. It is not reversible and there is no known cure for it, although there are medications that can help in relieving the symptoms and slowing down its progression. Medications such as donepezil, galantamine, memantine, and rivastigmine are all FDA approved pills for managing Alzheimer’s symptoms (Leonard, 2014). Apart from medication, there are also other supportive measures and treatments that can help people with Alzhiemer’s disease live independently as much as possible. For instance, an occupational therapist can provide practical solutions for everyday problem areas such as dressing up and eating. Patients also benefit in using grab bars and handrails installed around the house to aid them while walking within the home. Other treatments may include psychological treatments that help in improving their memory and cognitive stimulation as well as relaxation therapies to help relieve feelings of depression, hallucinations, anxiety, and other challenging behaviors, which are all associated with the disease.
Currently, researchers are looking into immunization strategies that would immunize the body against beta-amyloid and blocking its production. There are also efforts to study how a protein called tau can be prevented from forming tangles, which is another form of brain abnormality. Other researches involve finding ways to reduce inflammations in the brain through the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; the effects of insulin in the brain and brain cell functions; and, the ratio between the size of the head and the heart, among others (Mayo Clinic Staff).
When it comes to improving the quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients, Howe (2004) suggests that caregivers must have a thorough knowledge of the person’s background and should also focus on the patient’s social interactions and relationships, not only the cognitive behavior. Therefore, thorough screening of the patients and the stage of their illness is important to be able to provide the most appropriate care and treatment for each patient.
I consider this subject a very personal one because of a close relative who is an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer. My grandfather used to lead a full life and was, in fact, a revered chemist in one of the multinational companies he worked for. He was full of life, had a very sharp memory, and was very much into sports. However, when he reached the age of 60, he began to show signs of forgetfulness, which our family attributed to old age. He became irritable and would walk around the house for hours. When we brought him to see a specialist, the doctor said that our grandfather was already exhibiting signs and symptoms of the disease, which further tests confirmed as positive. Considering his healthy lifestyle, it makes me want to know what are the specific causes of the disease and if it is truly genetic and hereditary in nature.
De Fina, P.A., Moser, R.S., Glenn, M., Lichtenstein, J.D., & Fellus, J. (2013). Alzheimer’s disease clinical and research update for health care practitioners. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jar/2013/207178/
Howe, E. (2008). Improving the quality of life in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695741/
Leonard, W. (2014). Treatments for dementia. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/dementia-treatment-and-therapy#Overview1
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s treatment: What’s on the horizon?. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-treatments/art-20047780?pg=1