Friday, November 9, 2012

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Every 70 seconds, another American family is affected by Alzheimer’s.

By Nurse Diane
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I was recently talking with a friend of mine who has been dealing with some heart issues.  He had a pacemaker installed, and was put on a cardiac diet.  He exercise regularly, and I was letting him know how proud I was that he was taking care of his health so well, letting him know that he would live to be 100.  The he said, why would anyone want to live that long?  The first thing he thought about was getting Alzheimer's and not being able to remember anything, or take care of himself.

I tried to explain to him that not everyone gets Alzheimer’s, and to prove my point I went about trying to gather more information about this life ending disease.

Many of us know people who have suffered from Alzheimer's.  One of the more famous is President Ronald Reagan.  I had a neighbor who moved to the house behind me.  She had Alzheimer’s when she moved in.  Her son, an instructor at the local collage moved her there alone.  This lady would wander around the neighborhood, and out in the streets, and was in danger of getting lost, and being hit by a car.  I was always finding her and bringing her home to stay with me until her son could arrive and take care of her.  Once when I had to leave to get some medication for my husband, I left him in the shower.  When I returned, he was white as a ghost, and visibly shaken.  He told me the neighbor had walked into our home and yelled at him to get out of her house.  She had a habit of entering other neighbor's homes as well.  Later we were able to laugh about this intrusion, but it was a serious problem that needed to be resolved by her family.
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Alzheimer's is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.  It affects older people; however it is not a normal process of aging.  There is no cure for it, and no real way of diagnosing it until an autopsy can be performed.  If you have close family members who had been diagnosed with it, or certain genes, or a history of head trauma, you may be more susceptible.  There are two types, early onset Alzheimer’s which appears before the age of 60 and progresses very quickly, and this is usually more involved with genetic material.  Late onset Alzheimer’s occurs later in life.

The first symptom to appear is forgetfulness.  Other symptoms include:
  • Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines;
  • Getting lost on familiar routes;
  • Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects;
  • Losing interest in things previously enjoyed, flat mood;
  • Misplacing items;
  • Personality changes and loss of social skills
  • As the disease progresses you will notice these symptoms start to occur;
  • Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night;
  • Delusions, depression, agitation;
  • Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving;
  • Difficulty reading or writing;
  • Forgetting details about current events;
  • Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are;
  • Hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior;
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger;
  • Using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences; and
  • Withdrawing from social contact.

Those with sever Alzheimer's can no longer understand language, recognize people or perform basic activities such as eating, dressing, bathing.
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There is no treatment at this time for Alzheimer’s…there are several studies and research all across the country.  I was just reading an article the other day where aspirin once a day will help improve cognitive thinking, however do not take it unless you have spoken with your doctor.  Click here to read more about that study:

As I mentioned, Alzheimer's is NOT a normal part of aging, and other ways you can keep your mind sharp is to remain active and social, work on crossword puzzles or other thinking games.  Keep informed by reading the newspaper or other sources of reading material.  Eat a healthy diet; fish twice a week is also beneficial.  Many people as they get older have a tendency to forget things.  Many younger people forget things as well.  It is important to know that this is normal, however if symptoms get worse as mentioned above, see your doctor and let him know of your concerns.  The best things you can do is remain active and social, eat right and exercise and have regular checkups with your doctor.

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