With more than five million older Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, chances are we know a family member, friend or neighbor who has been affected by this debilitating disease. Despite its prevalence among older adults, however, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and its effects on the body.
That’s why we’ve answered some the most frequently asked questions about Alzheimer’s disease to help you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy as you age.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that causes thinking and memory problems along with behavioral changes. Although it is most common in those aged 65 and older, it is possible for Alzheimer’s disease to develop in those who are in their 40s and 50s.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
Unfortunately, researchers do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but through extensive research, they’ve discovered some risk factors that affect the development of this disease.
The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age. Although one in nine older adults have Alzheimer’s disease, it is not a normal part of aging. Another uncontrollable risk factor is genetics, but luckily, there are a few risk factors you can control.
An unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity and chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure have all been shown to increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. To lower your risk and benefit your overall wellbeing, incorporate these key components of healthy aging into your daily routine.
What are the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
While we do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, we do know some of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging outlines the following as the most common warning signs:
- Memory problems
- Mobility difficulties
- Losing the sense of smell
- Cognitive decline, in the form of vision/spatial issues, misplacing objects, having difficulty finding the right word or impaired reasoning skills
It’s important to note, however, that the first signs of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. To ensure that you detect the disease early on, discuss any physical and mental changes you have noticed with your doctor right away.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and mild forgetfulness?
Memory loss is one of the most common warning signs of Alzheimer’s, so it can be hard for you to tell the difference between age-related forgetfulness and something actually being seriously wrong.
According to the National Institute of Health, mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging that is not necessarily caused by Alzheimer’s. Medication side effects, alcoholism, vitamin B12 deficiency, depression and thyroid, liver or kidney disorders can also lead to memory loss.
The Alzheimer’s Association further breaks down the signs of Alzheimer’s vs. the typical age-related changes in the table below:Signs of Alzheimer's Age-Related Forgetfulness Poor judgment/decision-making Infrequent bad decisions Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment Inability to keep track of date/season Forgetting the date, but then remembering later Difficulty having a conversation Occasionally forgetting which word to use Misplacing objects and being unable to retrace steps Occasionally losing objects
Whether it’s mild forgetfulness or a bigger concern, your doctor will be able to help you determine the cause.
How quickly does Alzheimer’s disease develop?
Just like the warning signs of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person, so does the rate at which the disease develops. There are typically seven stages of Alzheimer’s, but these stages tend to overlap, so you may not be able to place yourself or a loved one within a specific stage.
Estimations show that on average, a person with Alzheimer’s disease lives anywhere between four and eight years after being diagnosed, but depending on other factors, someone can live as long as 20 years.
What options are available for Alzheimer’s treatment?
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medication is the most common form of Alzheimer’s treatment. Although medications cannot slow the progression of the disease, they can help with memory loss and confusion.
If you’re taking multiple medications at once, however, it can result in complications, such as agitation, mood swings, sleepiness and sleeplessness. Luckily, your doctor can create the best possible treatment plan for you that will prevent you from experiencing these complications.
Remember, your Alzheimer’s treatment plan will change as the disease progresses, so keep your doctor and loved ones updated and involved in all decisions regarding your treatment.
My loved one was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…how can I help keep them safe?
Watching a loved one show signs of Alzheimer’s is never easy, but there are ways you can ensure their safety as the disease progresses. Promote their safety in the home by removing clutter, adding railings to staircases, installing safety locks, and finding secure places to keep sharp objects and flammable items.
While these steps will help keep them safe in the home, it’s just as important to ensure their safety anywhere they go, especially if your loved one tends to wander. That’s why a GPS-enabled Mobile Guardian device is the perfect option to help keep your loved one safe. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our emergency responders can send help to their location.