Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that is associated with the death of brain cells,thus leading to memory loss, slowed thinking and the inability to complete the simplest tasks in an individual’s life. According to the Alzheimer's Society (2011), the condition derived its name from Dr. Alois Alzheimer after he discovered it in 1906. The disease is prevalent among older people aged 65 years and older. Alzheimer is commonly known for its slow progress in three key stages, including the early pre-clinical stage with no symptoms, the middle stage with mild cognitive impairments and the final stage commonly characterized by dementia. In fact, Alzheimer has continued posing a significant healthcare concern and has been identified as one of the key research areas that need to be prioritized by healthcare practitioners. The lack of a clear treatment for the disease continues forcing medical practitioners to try to understand the development of the disease, which will help in the enhancement of disease-modifying treatment. The lack of a defined treatment and the regeneration of the condition meanthat the affected people have to rely continuously on others for support on a daily basis.
The rise of Alzheimer’s disease among the elderly is alarming and healthcare practitioners have to come up with a defined treatment plan urgently to reduce its effects.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease
The common form of Alzheimer’s disease among older individuals aged over 70 years is the late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Ballard et al. (2011) think that such form of Alzheimer accounts for over 90% of all the reported cases among older individuals. According to the National Institute on Aging (2014), indicates that medical practitioners are yet to identify the primary cause of the late-onset Alzheimer’s among older individuals. Nevertheless, medical practitioners continue to attribute the emergence of the disease on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The increased risk of the disease is always related to the apoliprotein E (APOE) gene located on chromosome 19. APOE is associated with making a protein that helps carry cholesterol and other forms of fat in the bloodstream.
Apart from genetic changes among individuals, the disease mostly affects older people at this age due to the lifestyle factors. Berk (2013) agrees that the late-onset Alzheimer’s disease emanates from poor diets and lifestyle among older people. For instance, most of the affected tend to consume many fats, not to engage in physical activities and not to take part in intensive mental activities. As a result, it helps the disease to attack people at this age due to a weakened immune system that is incapable of fighting different emerging diseases in the body.
One of the key symptoms of the disease is that it leads to confusion and makes individuals forget common names of people, places and recent events. The National Institute on Aging (2013) is of the view that the death of brain cells slows down the thinking capacity and inhibits memory among older people, hence making it difficult for them to remember some of the common events and people whom they might have associated with in their earlier years. It makes a person to confuse different individuals as he/she tries to remember and relate them to the previous interactions. This symptom increases over time as the disease progresses among older individuals. However, the rate at which such symptoms worsen differs from one person to another. It depends on the level of dementia and the level of care that is provided to a person. Overall, the loss of memory makes the affected individual forget appointments and conversations, routinely misplace possessions and continuously repeat statements and other common discussions with other people.
Another significant symptom of the disease is the changes in personality and behavior among the affected individuals. It is common to see individuals change immediately after being attacked by the condition. For instance, it leads to depression and the feeling of neglect among affected people. The Mayo Clinic Staff (2014) reiterates that depression leads to the feeling of isolation and may make a person hate his/her environment and all other people around the place. More so, moodswings and mistrust for other people are always an indication of personality and behavioral changes among individuals. Moods are likely to change from time to time. The increasing memory loss is responsible for mood swings among individuals. Again, the level of mistrust to other people increases as the individual becomes frustrated with the increasing memory loss. There tends to be a social disconnect between the individual and other people in the community, hence aggravating the development of the condition. The National Institute on Aging (2013) indicates that changes in personality and behavior are also seen in terms of irritability and aggressiveness among the individuals. They become irritated with anything due to the lack of control over their memory and other cognitive abilities.
The third noticeable symptom is the difficulty of carrying out daily. The development of the disease incapacitates individuals, hence posing a challenge to their ability to work normally. The National Institute on Aging (2013) informs that affected individuals are not always able to finish even the simplest routine tasks that everyone would expect them to do. For instance, Alzheimer makes it difficult for the affected people to complete routine tasks such as cooking, planning and playing favorite games. The death of brain cells is the key factor that incapacitates individuals, hence making it difficult for them to complete the tasks in the best way. The inability to perform routine functions worsens as the disease progresses and it might make a person completely forget tasks such as bathing and dressing up.
People with Alzheimer find it difficult to speak and write. The older individuals attacked by Alzheimer experience problems in terms of finding the right words to use in the process of speaking and writing. Bertram and Tanzi (2009) opine that language problems are evidenced by the loss of vocabulary and effective language use among people. Individuals cannot remember and construct some of the simple sentences. The level of fluency also reduces the confidence of individuals, hence making it challenging for them to interact with other people in their environment. Apart from communicating effectively, using the available vocabulary, these individuals face challenges relating to the performance of routine motor skills such as writing and drawing. The loss of motor skills and communication skills poses a challenge to the progress of such individuals and affects their overall interactions in their respective environments.
The last symptom of the disease is ineffective judgments and decision-making. The affected individuals experience challenges relating to clear decision-making and response to different events within their environments. For instance, there is always a limited response to matters such as burning food in the kitchen. The individual will be slow in making constructive decisions due to slowed thinking and movements. Many of them make wrong judgments about particular events in their environment.
Treatment and Prevention
Ballard et al. (2011) affirms that there is no clear treatment for the Alzheimer’s disease. However, medical practitioners have not refused searchingfor it and have developed different drugs to help relieve the effects of the disease’s symptoms on people. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease exhibit the shortage of acetylcholine chemical in their brains. Acetylcholine is the primary carrier of memory and thought among individuals. According to Alzheimer's Society (2011), medical practitioners have recommended the use of different drugsfor treatment, including Exelon, Reminyl and Aricept, which play an instrumental role in the maintenance of the acetylcholine supply to the brain. These drugs are mainly recommended to people at mild and moderate stages of the disease, because this is where most of the symptoms are noticed. The mild and moderate stages exhibit most of these symptoms because of the active development of the disease at this stage compared to the later stage when it has fully matured. Perryman, Lewis and Rivers (2009) inform that the side effects of using these drugs include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and the loss of appetite. Ebixa is one of the known drugs when it comes to the alleviation of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It was launched in 2002 in the U.K. and works differently from the other three drugs when regulating symptoms of the disease. Ebixa exhibits diverse side effects, including headaches, dizziness, confusion and hallucinations. Iqbal and Grundke-Iqbal (2007) indicate that antipsychotic drugs are utilized in the disease treatment process to reduce aggression and psychosis in Alzheimer’s disease associated with behavioral problems among individuals. Nevertheless, they are also associated with severe side effects, including stroke, cognitive decline and problems in movement. Such treatments are only effective in alleviating the effects and symptoms of the disease, but do not provide the required cure for it.
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The disease could be prevented by changing an individual’s lifestyle. The disease rarely affects people who actively take part in intellectual activities such as playing, reading, writing, playing board games and playing musical instruments. Berk (2013) insists that education is vital in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, hence ensuring individuals are secure at any given time. Therefore, a positive lifestyle change in terms of engaging in intellectual activities is vital for successful prevention. More so, the disease could be prevented through diet regulation. The disease rarely attacks people who consume Mediterranean diet. Most cases are reported among individuals who consume fatty foods. It implies that people must be ready to change their diet approaches to prevent the disease.
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