Living with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a blanket term used to describe various conditions that damage brain cells.
Alzheimer’s is associated with progressive memory loss, problems with reasoning and changing behavior. Statistics indicate that one-in-eight people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, and half of those 85 or older have it. While anyone can contract this disease, women have a higher risk than men.
There are many misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease, what it is and what it means.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It is not contagious. It does not only happen to older people. Depression does not cause Alzheimer’s. Currently available medications, or “working harder at it” will not halt or reverse Alzheimer’s. Current studies tell us that aspartame, flu shots and cooking with aluminum pots do not cause the disease.
Research is ongoing. It may be that a combination of genes, environment and lifestyle are all involved.
Many of us will have trouble remembering some things as we get older. Forgetting where you left your glasses is not a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Losing something and then remembering where you put it later, is not a symptom. Memory loss that starts to affect one’s daily life, difficulty in completing familiar tasks and confusion as to time or place, are more likely symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease is not the end of the world. While no medications are currently available that can cure or arrest the progress of the disease, there are several medications in use that can help alleviate the symptoms.
Symptoms can be managed, and with proper care and a good support system, someone with Alzheimer’s can live a full, active life.
More research is being done than ever before to treat the disease. The National Institutes of Health estimates a leap in spending on Alzheimer’s research this year, going from $589 million in 2015 to $910 million for 2016, with more being spent on Alzheimer’s disease related dementias.
Yet, more is needed. Several organizations have pointed out that billions are being spent on other diseases such as cancer, heart disease and AIDS.
There are things you can do that are associated with lowering the risk of developing this disease. Regular physical exercise, eating a healthy diet, watching your weight, remaining socially active and exercising your mind by learning new things, are all very good ideas. Some recent studies show that drinking coffee also can help.
Michael Farrell is the activity director and adult day program director at Mesa Vista Assisted Living in Battlement Mesa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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