How to Manage Alzheimer’s Disease Patients
Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible brain illness. It is a progressive condition whereby the brain cells shrink and die. The death of the brain cells leads to the decline in such an individual’s cognitive abilities, such that the person cannot remember recent events, incidents, and conversations. The patient can also not perform simple tasks on their own without assistance. Alzheimer’s disease is usually the biggest causal factor of dementia, which is a progressive reduction of one’s ability to think and remember events. Dementia also can be classified as a decline in a human being’s social and behavioral skills. This coupled together makes it difficult for such individuals to function independently without external help. Alzheimer’s disease leads to the chronic decline and damage of the brain cells.
Studies show that about 70% of the world’s population live with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease affects mostly aged people between the ages 65 and above and is on the list of the top ten events of death in the world.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary and can be mild at the early stage. However, the major and similar early symptoms of it include a high and alarming rate of forgetting conversations, events, and incidents that are recent. As these symptoms continue, the patient, with time, would begin to suffer from severe memory loss and eventually lack the capability to execute tasks independently. The main characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of plaques in the brain, coupled with a disconnection between the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.
Since no cure has been found to utterly eliminate Alzheimer’s disease in humans, as no success has been made throughout the years of finding medications that can end the brain decline or damage process, medications, and management routine for Alzheimer’s disease has been found to slow down the brain decline process and improve or enhance the victim’s ability to function independently without full-time assistance with everything.
The major cause of Alzheimer’s disease has not been fully discovered. But the suspected culprit is the failure of the brain protein. When the brain protein fails to function properly, the brain cells suffer it, such that their functions are disrupted, leading to the release of toxic effects. This event is followed by the disconnection and damage of nerve cells in the brain and the final death of the brain cells.
Another group of factors that can be held responsible for Alzheimer’s disease is a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
The brain damage or decline begins with the part of the brain that handles memory. The process continues some years after the first symptom had been discovered. Then the damage begins to spread to other parts of the brain. At this stage of the decline or damage, the brain itself must have shrunk drastically.
The roles of the following proteins are being suspected by researchers to be part of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Plaques; when the fragments of beta-amyloid (a protein) accumulates, the effect is usually toxic to the brain and nerve cells, such that there is a disconnection in the cell to cell communication. With time, the accumulation of this protein leads to bigger plaques, known as amyloid plaques, which have a higher toxicity effect on the brain cells.
- Tangles, the support and transport of essential nutrients to the neurons, are made possible through the tau protein. When the tau protein fails in its functions, Alzheimer’s disease sets in. Here, the shape of the tau protein changes, and it develops into what is called tangles. It is these tangles that are developed from the malfunctioning of the tau protein that releases toxic effects into the brain and causes disruption in the transportation of essential nutrients to the neurons, thereby leading to brain damage.
As you age, your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease is very high. Though Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of aging, however, advancing in age keeps you at the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Adults of ages 65 and above are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease is quite high if a direct family relative of yours, siblings, or parents has Alzheimer’s disease. Though the genetic cause still remains a mystery and can still not be explained after so much research, the mutation of certain genes has been found to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease that is caused by family history or genetics. This causal factor accounts for 1% of the general population of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Most people with Down syndrome suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The research found that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease occur between 10 and 20 years earlier in people with Down syndrome than it appears in the other population of people with the disease.
Researchers, after so many findings, believe that women outlive men; thus, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in women is higher than it is in men, though with little difference.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
MCI is a memory decline condition that is beyond normal for people of a particular age. Although, this memory decline does not render its victims socially, cognitively, and behaviorally dependent. However, it increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In order to prevent MCI from migrating into Alzheimer’s disease, changes in lifestyle, as well as memory loss improvement routines and schedules, are advised by medical practitioners.
People who have in the past suffered from head injuries are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in their later life.
The effect of the inhalation of certain toxic air pollutants can be as severe as the degeneration and decline of the brain process, which might eventually tamper with your cognitive abilities later in the future.
Unhealthy Sleep Patterns
Difficulty falling asleep, as well as other unhealthy sleeping patterns; have been found by a researcher to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Some lifestyle factors have been discovered to be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. These lifestyle factors include;
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High Blood Pressure
- Lack of physical bodily activities (exercise)
- High cholesterol levels
- Untreated type-2 diabetes
The following are similar behavioral symptoms found in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease;
- Repetition of questions and statements
- Rapid forgetfulness of recent events
- Misplacing personal items and intentionally placing them in odd places
- Getting lost in places they have been to several times in the past
- Difficulty in remembering or total forgetfulness of names of family members
- Difficulty in getting their thoughts together, gather words to express themselves or partake in discussions.
- Always needs assistance with almost everything, including thinking and expression of points.
- Lack of concentration, multitasking, and the ability to handle abstracts like numbers
- Making irrational or out-of-point judgments and decisions
- Struggle to cope and do things that were their usual routines in the past. For instance, the inability to remember how to cook their favorite meals, where to start their cooking from, inability to remember how to play their favorite sports, and so on.
- Psychological problems such as depression, withdrawal from social activities, apathy, mood swings, wandering, lack of trust in people, poor sleep habits, aggressiveness, and so on.
- Regular engagement in physical exercises
- Eating healthy and balanced diets.
- Adherence to treatment and management rules of illnesses such as diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and high cholesterol
- Adopting a method of quitting constant and excessive smoking if you smoke.
Treatment and Management
- No medication has been found to be the cure of Alzheimer’s disease, but some medications, lifestyle routines, and environmental factors have been found to reduce the rapid degeneration, decline, and damage of the brain and nerve cells. These medications can improve cognitive symptoms like chronic memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion.
- Also, treating the underlying health issues can help improve the condition. For instance, treating your type-2 diabetes properly, sticking to your high blood pressure medications, treating your psychological problems like depression, anxiety, and so on would go a long way in managing Alzheimer’s disease.
- In addition, engaging in physical exercises as well as active involvement in social activities can also help manage the disease.
In summary, Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition, occurs when the brain cells shrink and die as a result of factors like the build-up of plaques and tangles in the brain protein as well as genetic disorders. The effects of these factors include memory and cognitive impairment, confusion, and dependence on physical help for everything. These are the major characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.
Though without a cure yet, certain drugs can help slow down the brain decline process and also ease the emotional and cognitive symptoms, thereby improving the quality of the patient’s life.