Managing Alzheimer’s disease – A Social Responsibility
Numbers of Alzheimer’s disease patients are increasing every year all over the world and these numbers are expected to be four fold in the next 40 or 50 years. Higher rate of yearly increase in the number of patients demands that the society should take over the responsibilities for managing Alzheimer’s disease patients’ wellness and rehabilitation to show their respect to the elders.
Alzheimer’s disease is normally affecting people over 65 years of old. This is not a hard and fast rule, but nearly 90% of the patients who are having Alzheimer’s disease are above 65 years of age. But in some cases, symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear in the early years (as low as 40 or 50 years of age) also.
Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the inability to memorize the events and lack of rational thinking capacity. Though Alzheimer’s disease shows the symptoms of memory loss or dementia, these two diseases are different. Dementia can be caused by many other reasons also but still it is always associated with Alzheimer’s disease. To be accurate, the Alzheimer’s disease shows some other prominent symptoms also other than dementia such as:
- Disorientation and confusion even in daily activities such as cooking or bathing.
- Lack of hygiene or manners (careless dressing or bad manners in social function).
- Repetition of stories or incidents.
- Strange behaviors like misplacement of things (pen in the zinc or spectacles in the fridge).
- Mood swings like upsetting or becoming angry without any particular reason.
Different Alzheimer’s disease Stages
The intensity of the disease will increase in the different Alzheimer’s disease stages. There are three stages in Alzheimer’s disease and they are divided into mild, moderate and severe stages:
- In the mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms include the loss of recent memories and the withdrawal from the social activities. Mood swings and coordination problems are also associated with this stage. The patient shows the tendency to remain idle or shows interest to sleep for a long time. Physical problems in this stage include stress, depression, metabolic problems etc. This stage will last for the first two to four years of the disease.
- Secondary stage of Alzheimer’s disease is termed as moderate stage it is characterized by speech problems and sleep problems. The patient shows confusion about the time or place and he/she is having delusions in this stage. Aggressiveness, inappropriate actions and problems with mobility etc. are the physical problems associated with this stage. This stage will last for two to ten years.
- The final phase is the severe stage and in this stage the patient will have problems with food consuming and bowel control. Hallucinations and deliriums will become frequent and the patient shows the inability in communication and movement. Body will lose weight and skin infections may appear in this stage. This stage will last for one to three years.
Stages of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer’s disease Diagnosis & Alzheimer’s disease Test
By evaluating the warning signs described above, a layman cannot be able to decide whether these symptoms are related to Alzheimer’s disease or to some other physical disorders. These memory loss problems also can be associated with the age related matters in older people, so to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease help of a competent medical practitioner is needed. A specialist physician will implement different techniques to come up with a diagnosis. Some of the Alzheimer’s disease tests using for its diagnosis are:
- Neurological exams to know about the neurological conditions of the patient.
- Mental status test to find about the exact mental function of the patient and it is doing by asking different questions.
- Imaging test such as MRIs, CT scans to find any physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.
Evaluating the test results along the with the details collected form the immediate family members of the patient will help the doctor to do the diagnosis. Since Alzheimer’s disease will last for a long time, it is good to have a second opinion about the disease from a different specialist physician.
Types of Alzheimer’s disease
There are three types of Alzheimer’s disease and they are:
- Early-onset Alzheimer’s: In this case the symptoms appear in the early years, i.e., in mid 40s or early 50s. This is very rare and only 10% of the total Alzheimer’s disease patients come in this category.
- Late-onset Alzheimer’s: This is the most common type of Alzheimer’s disease and 90% of the patients are included in this category. Average age group of this type of patients is above 65.
- Familial Alzheimer’s disease: This is an inherited problem and is very rare. Only 1% of the patients are having this type of Alzheimer’s disease.
Importance of the Exact Alzheimer’s disease Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s disease is a long time disease and it will pass through different stages such as mild, moderate and severe stages. The patient’s condition will become worse in each advanced stage and these stages will last for a few years also. In all these stages, except in the first few years, the patient does not have the capacity to manage his own functions or to act reasonably in social situations. Constant attention is needed by some close relatives or by trained persons in all these time.
So it is very important to do the exact diagnosis, to start immediate treatment procedure. A thorough examination by a specialist will help you to decide whether the patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or form some other disease. It will also help you to plan the nursing assistance that is to be given to the patient in the forthcoming years. In the first stages of the disease, the patient does not require constant attention, but after a few years of suffering the patient requires continuous attention by a trained person.
Alzheimer’s disease Treatment
Alzheimer’s disease is not curable but the different symptoms that are associated with the disease can be taken care by administrating the right medicine. Memory loss, behavior changes and sleep problems are the main symptoms of this disease. In conventional medicine, following medicines are using for the treatment of these different symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Antidepressants are using to treat mood disorders and emotional disturbance.
- Antipsychotic medicines are using as a remedy to reduce hallucinations and delusions.
- Anxiolytics are using to treat restlessness and anxiety.
Alzheimer’s disease Diet
Any special food is not recommended for Alzheimer’s disease patients, but they should eat appropriate food items that will maintain healthy weight. Try to eat variety or foods from each food group and avoid excess sugar and salt. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation. Drink enough fluids to keep the body hydrated. Physical activity and exercises as per the capacity of the patient are also recommended. To plan a balanced diet for the patient, consult the doctor or a dietitian for better result.
If the patient is having some other diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, food control should be continued as per the directions of the consulting physician.
Managing Alzheimer’s disease Efficiently for Daily Life
When the disorder is diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, enlighten the patient with all the details of the disease and make them understand that he/she will have this disease with him/her till their end. Though the symptoms associated with this disease can be treated to a certain extent, complete cure of Alzheimer’s disease is not possible. You have to prepare yourself to make the appropriate changes in the patient’s day to day activities and in the lifestyles as per the intensity of the different stages of the disease demands.
In the initial years of the disease, the patient can manage himself for his/her personal as well as for a few social activities, but after a few years he/she will become completely dependent on others. Memory loss associate with this disease makes it difficult them to manage themselves in their day to day activities. Stress and anxiety is common with Alzheimer’s disease and this can lead to depression.
Teach the patient to cope with Alzheimer’s disease by following the tips below:
- Inform the details about the disease and this will help the patient to make early arrangements and planning to face the critical situations that will come in future.
- Always ask for the assistance of doctor or nurse, when it is needed.
- Give antidepressants to avoid depression (only after consulting the physician).
- Accumulate the supports of community groups and like minded people. The patient will get emotional strength from these social supports.
- Always to keep a book with important information such as names, appointments, phone numbers etc. close to the patient.
- Label all the cupboards that are using by the patient with the names of the items in them.
- Keep the photos of the persons in association with the patient, with their names and other small details.
- Always make him/her engaged in some simple works that they can enjoy.
Following the directions above will help the patients to support themselves to some extent, but after a few years the patient will become completely dependent even for the personal needs. While managing Alzheimer’s disease, those who are nursing the patients should execute their duties with love and affection. What the patients want in this later stage of the disease is not the sympathy of the caretaker, but their common guidance with specific emotional support.