Alzheimer's Disease Management

A neurological condition or disorder which results in brain atrophy (wasting) and death of brain cells. It is the leading cause of dementia, a condition that leads to gradual decline in cognitive ability, reasoning and memory.

The gradual decline progresses over time until people living with the condition can no longer live independently. They lose their social skills and in the very last stage of the condition, they may lose their mobility and start using wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices.

Symptom of Alzheimer's disease

The symptoms start manifesting long after the brain is attacked, a stage of the condition referred to as pre-clinical stage. During pre-clinical stage, the wasting of brain and death of brain cells happen without any symptoms.

Symptoms in the early stage

In the early stage of the disease, also referred to as the mild stage, all the symptoms look like minor life happenings. The symptoms may be hardly noticeable to both victim and family and are different for every person. They may include but not limited to the following:

·       Being disorganized; forgetting where you placed items like wallets, remotes, phones, etc.

·       Trouble remembering names of people you have not seen for long.

·       Trouble making simple plans to organize day’s activities.

·       Difficulty managing basic budgets and money.

·       Forgetting recent events.

Symptoms of the middle stage

In the middle stage, also known as moderate stage, the symptoms starts manifesting clearly, and continue to be obvious to both the victim and family as the disease progresses. This is the longest lasting stage of Alzheimer’s disease and the symptoms may include:

·       Trouble remembering even own name.

·       Difficulty remembering some close members of family and friends.

·       Extremely slow or difficulty in learning new simple things.

·       Reading, writing and making simple calculations becomes difficult.

·       Losing track of time, day and place.

·       May start wondering from home and get lost in familiar places.

·       May need a little help getting dressed, brushing of teeth, showering and other self-care activities.

·       Changes in moods and personality.

The late stage symptoms

At this stage, also known as severe stage, a person with Alzheimer's disease becomes completely dependent. Symptoms in this stage include:

·       Mobility problems.

·       Bowel and bladder control problems.

·       Incoherence in conversations.

·       Poor immune leading to attack by other illnesses.

·       Needing help doing everything and constant monitoring.

When Should You Get Worried?

Most Alzheimer's disease symptoms, especially in the early stage are ignored since they look normal to the victim, family and friends. There are also symptoms of other treatable memory disorders that mimic those of Alzheimer's disease leading to misdiagnosis.

It is therefore advisable to see the doctor as soon as you start observing the middle stage signs, as normal as they may seem to you and family.

 It is highly recommended to encourage a family member or friend to get checked if you observe such symptoms too, once again, as normal as they may appear. Early diagnosis helps in slowing down the rate of progression of disease.

Causes and Risk Factors

There is no well-known definite cause of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in the field however attribute the condition to a combination of lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors.

Researchers are studying the proteins beta-amyloid and tau, to understand what causes the brain to fail and not function properly which results to the damage and eventual death of neurons in the brain.

Risk Factors

Age: the probability of getting Alzheimer's disease increases with age, age is the biggest risk factor of the disease.

Severe Head Trauma: you will be at great risk of getting Alzheimer's disease if you have had a traumatic brain injury.

Down syndrome: people with Down syndrome are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to the general population. The disease starts manifesting 10-20 years earlier for people with Down syndrome.

Family History: genetic factors also come to play and you are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s if your sibling or parent has the condition.

Sex: there are more women than men with the disease, but experts argue that it’s because women live longer than men.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): people with MCI are at a higher risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease

Other risk factors include: poor sleeping patterns, irresponsible alcohol consumption, pollution of air, physical inactivity, high cholesterol levels and other lifestyle conditions and diseases.

Prevention, Control and Treatment

Alzheimer's disease has no cure; it is only managed through treating diseases and complications that come as a result of living with the condition.

Controlling Quick Progression

To control fast progression of the disease and increase life expectancy, people living with Alzheimer's disease should strive to lead a healthy lifestyle including and not limited to:

·       Eating healthy and balanced diet.

·       Exercising.

·       Avoiding heavy alcohol consumption.

·       Management of diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other diseases that may accelerate progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Complications

Complications resulting from fast progression of the condition and poor management include:

·       Complications related to aspiration.

·       Diarrhea, constipation and other bowel related complications.

·       Bladder management related complications like frequent UTIs.

·       Weak bones that could lead to fractures.

·       Pressure sores caused by staying for too long in one position.

·       Mobility problems, passing out and frequent falls.

·       Tooth decay, mouth ulcers and other dental related complications.

·       Permanent disability which requires total care.

The Family Role in Guarding the Dignity of Members with Alzheimer's

People living with Alzheimer's disease deserve to lead a dignified life and their families have a responsibility to guarantee them the same.

Some of these people lead a solitary life due to lack of proper care and neglect by their families who write them off.

To ensure a dignified life for people with Alzheimer's disease, families should ensure that such people are:

·       Well-fed with balanced diet.

·       Medically attended in case of opportunistic illnesses.

·       Provided with physiotherapy care.

·       Assisted to ensure highest standards of hygiene.

·       Exercised regularly.

·       Provided with requisite assistive devices like wheelchairs.

·       Provided with comfortable sitting and sleeping places to avoid pressure sores.

·       Taken to hospitals and clinics for regular check-ups.

·       Generally treated with all the love and care a family can muscle to prevent them from sinking into depression and leading a life of solitude.