What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior (Alzheimer’s Assoc.). Dementia is a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving and language. The disease is named after the doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer in 1906 (Alzheimer’s Society). During the course of this disease, proteins build up and forms structures called plaques and tangles, which leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells and eventually the death of the nerve cells and loss of brain tissue. The disease also kills important chemicals that help transmit signals around the brain. It is a progressive disease, meaning it gradually gets worse as time goes on.
What are the symptoms and treatments of Alzheimer’s?
The most common sign of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. There is seven stages to Alzheimer’s, with each stage the symptoms worsen. It starts off with little or no memory loss (10 Early Signs). The person may believe they are forgetting familiar words and places, but no signs of any type of dementia to friends or family. Sooner or later their loved ones see a change in mental status and should seek medical help (Stages). By this point they should be at stage 4 or 5, which is when they are unable to determine what day it is, or certain phone numbers, but still need no assistance with eating or using the toilet (Stages). The words they are trying to say may not come to mind and can’t make their own decisions. Once they hit stage 7, the final stage, they lose ability to control movement and hold a conversation. At this point they need help with almost all of their daily activity and have trouble smiling, swallowing, sitting without support and holding their head up (Stages). Other than memory loss, an individual with this disease will wonder, not knowing where they are going, and also have mood swings on a daily basis. They distrust others and become delusional, such as thinking their belongings have been stolen, or seeing a passed loved one walk into the room (Stages).
How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?
If an individual has concerns of memory loss or any other symptoms of Alzheimer’s they should seek medical help. Multiple tests will be taken to determine if someone has Alzheimer’s disease. A physician will do a mental status test, a physical and neurological exam, blood tests and brain imaging (Diagnosis). Early diagnosing of Alzheimer’s can benefit in many ways; like being able to plan out the future, and being able to participate in decisions about your future care, transportation, living options and financial matters. Although researchers thought there was little we could do to prevent the disease, recent studies show you can reduce your risk by eating healthy, exercising, staying active and keeping stress in check (Diagnosis). Once diagnosed, an individual with Alzheimer’s is expected to live 8 to 10 years after the symptoms start to manifest (News-Medical).
What is available for people with Alzheimer’s?
Special help is available for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Adult day care, which the person would spend the day with other elderly sharing the same disease, and even special housing, such as assisted livings. Assisted living helps the individual cope with their disease and have medical staff at their access, along with brain activities to keep their brain working at it’s best. Someone with mild dementia may not need that full assistance and may have a caregiver come for a couple hours to help with taking medication, or just for companionship. The Hogeweyk village is a special village in the Netherlands created for Alzheimer’s patients (Amazing Village). The village looks like any normal village at a first glance, with housing and small shops, and caregivers at ever corner, dressed in regular clothing so they don’t stand out.
What is the cost, on average, of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease?
Although many would assume that Medicare and Medicaid would cover the tab for the treatments for an Alzheimer’s patient, but sadly they are very wrong. A private room in a nursing home costs on average $82,000 a year (How to Cut). An assisted living for an individual is around $55,000, and the price, per hour, for an unskilled home care assistant is $21 (How to Cut). The right time to apply for medicaid is about five years before the individual would need help. Medicaid won’t cover the cost for an unskilled worker, or an assisted living, which most Alzheimer’s patients need, but they will pay for most of, or even all of the cost of a nursing home (How to Cut). A veteran or a child of a veteran can also get financial help.
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