Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that leads to many concerns and questions. An understanding can make things easier.
This blog post was written with our patients and participants in mind.
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Community health centers like CCI take the opportunity each year to educate the public on Alzheimer’s disease.
Anyone who has known a person with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis understands how difficult life can be due to the disease. It changes everything for the person affected and their family. It is a devastating condition that leads to many concerns and questions. However, an understanding of the disease can make things easier.
Here is everything you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease.
There are two categories of Alzheimer’s disease: early-onset and late-onset. Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects individuals under the age of 65. It makes up about 5% of all cases. Late-onset Alzheimer’s affects individuals over the age of 65. It is more common than early-onset Alzheimer’s. In fact, advanced age is one of the main causes of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease causes cells in the brain (called neurons) to die. The loss of neurons leads to memory loss and impairment. A person with Alzheimer’s disease loses their ability to make decisions and care for themselves in later stages.
The first stage of Alzheimer’s disease consists of brain changes. There are no symptoms in this stage. The changes occur years before symptoms appear. The family of a person affected with Alzheimer’s will not notice anything unusual about their loved one in the first stage.
The second stage begins when symptoms appear. Early symptoms may be mild. For example, the person affected may forget a recent event. They may find it hard to recall a memory. They may misplace their items.
Of course, it is important to remember that occasional memory lapses are normal as a person ages. However, when memory issues disrupt daily life, it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory loss worsens throughout the stages. Other symptoms begin to show, as well. The person affected will start to feel confused and find it difficult to make decisions. They will struggle with their emotions. They may become distant from loved ones. The disease will escalate to a point where reliance on others becomes necessary.
The final stage of Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh stage: lack of physical control. The person affected will be unable to swallow and chew without assistance. They will also be more prone to infection due to mobility issues. They will require care for the remainder of their lives.
There is no one cause for Alzheimer’s disease. Health experts instead focus on several potential risk factors.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases as we age. The risk begins around the age of 65 and becomes very high by the age of 85.
Some people have a genetic disposition for Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests there are several genes linked to the disease. The risk also increases if any family members have it.
Studies show that there is a link between previous head injuries and dementia.
Lifestyle choices can also make a person more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports several conditions and health behaviors that increase risk, which include:
Health experts still do not know much about what causes Alzheimer’s disease. However, they have learned a lot about how to avoid it through research.
There is no one activity or medical intervention that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. There is also no cure. However, there are behaviors that may reduce the risk of a diagnosis.
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that adults who exercise may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by 45%. Exercise also proves to be beneficial at any stage of life. In fact, seniors who incorporate exercise into their daily routines reduce their risk even at an advanced age.
There is no best exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Anything that motivates you to move will help. Some people enjoy weightlifting or running. Other people may prefer a walk around the neighborhood with a friend. It all depends on your overall health and goals.
Learn something new
You may decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s if you continue to learn as you age. Take some time to read a few pages of a book each day. Watch an informative video on YouTube. You can also play board games that require strategy or complete a crossword puzzle. Any activity that makes you think will have a positive impact.
Maintain a healthy diet
It is best to eat a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. It is also a good idea to avoid processed or fried foods, added sugar, and salt. Check out a few healthy recipes we recommend.
Avoid excessive drinking
Research suggests excessive drinking can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The CDC outlines two categories of excessive drinking: binge drinking and heavy drinking. They define binge drinking as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more drinks on a single occasion for men. They define heavy drinking as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.
Care for an Alzheimer’s patient is expensive. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the median cost for an assisted living facility in 2022 was $4,774 per month. The high cost of care is a burden for families who feel overwhelmed with the many unknowns that result from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) helps make Alzheimer’s care more accessible. PACE is a health program for people 55 years and older who require care advanced care. The goal of PACE is to provide care services to seniors that allow them to live at home instead of in a nursing facility.
49% of PACE participants have a dementia diagnosis. PACE offers adult day care, home health care, in-home assistance, meal delivery, and more. PACE acts as a health insurance company and provider and supplements other care treatments for individuals with dementia.
PACE is not just for patients with dementia, either. Seniors with health conditions that require any type of assistance benefit, as well. The program empowers seniors to maintain independence as they receive the care they need to live well.
CCI will open a PACE program in 2024. You can learn more about our program by signing up receive our emails.
If you live in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Maryland, and want to schedule an appointment with CCI, call us at (866) 877-7258.