Being informed about Alzheimer’s can lead to early intervention and better treatment options
- 8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
- Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that affects memory, critical thinking, and cognitive function
One of the many difficult things about aging is witnessing the ones we love suffer its effects. Oftentimes difficult diagnoses are identified because of the observations and diligence of concerned family members, and early identification is a key component to devising a treatment plan. Alzheimer’s is one such disease that depends largely on someone else – usually a family member, friend, or medical professional – noticing that something is wrong and taking action. Learn more about this debilitating disease and how you can help.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s in 2019, and that number is growing. Ten percent of people older than 65 are living with Alzheimer’s. In fact, between 2000 and 2017, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by 145percent, and it kills more senior citizens than breast and prostate cancer combined. Other important numbers to know include the following:
- Only 16 percent of senior citizens receive regular cognitive assessments during health checkups
- Someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 65 seconds
- Almost two-thirds of those affected are women
- In senior citizens, African Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s, and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to be affected than elderly Caucasians
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and causes a decline in memory, reasoning skills, and thought processes. If you notice the following warning signs in yourself or a friend or family member, share your concerns with a medical professional as soon as possible:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, or asking for the same information repeatedly
- Challenges with problem-solving or routine planning, such as following a familiar recipe or keeping track of bills or routine responsibilities
- Difficulty completing daily tasks, such as driving to a familiar location, managing duties at work, or remembering rules to a game that has been played often
- Losing track of dates, seasons, and time or forgetting where he or she is or how he or she got there
- Vision problems, including difficulty with visual images or spatial awareness; reading, judging distance, or determining color or contrast can also prove challenging and cause problems with operating an automobile
- Trouble following a conversation, remembering words, or joining a discussion; sufferers may repeat themselves often or call things by the wrong names
- Losing things or putting items in unusual places, which often results in accusing others of stealing, or having difficulty retracing steps
- Changes in judgment or difficulty with decision-making, including using poor judgment regarding money or paying less attention to personal hygiene
- Social withdrawal
These symptoms make hobbies, outings, and friendships more difficult to enjoy or maintain, resulting in doing them less often.
If you notice any of the signs listed above, it’s imperative to seek professional help. Doctors can conduct tests that will evaluate memory impairment and cognitive ability; rule out other causes; and ensure proper treatment, care, education, and plans for the future if you or a loved one is affected by Alzheimer’s. Early intervention can slow the decline and provide greater access to clinical trials or other resources.
How to help
The best way to help is by being aware, proactive, and courageous enough to speak up if you notice a pattern of symptoms in someone you know. Educating yourself about Alzheimer’s disease can help you provide support for caregivers and can enrich the quality of life of those affected by this insidious disease.
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