Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. It is the most common cause of Dementia (For reference - Dec'15 - dementia part 1.doc; Jan'16 - dementia part 2.doc). Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. At first, someone with Alzheimer's disease may notice mild confusion and difficulty remembering. Eventually, people with the disease may even forget important people in their lives and undergo dramatic personality changes.  
 
SYMPTOMS
The initial changes that are felt by the patient and also observed by his/her family members are unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing thoughts. 
- Difficulty remembering things that just happened. Asking the same question again and again, misplace possessions, lose their way or direction, eventually can even forget the names of their family members and everyday objects.
- Impairments to reasoning, complex tasking, and exercising judgment
- Impaired speaking, reading and writing
- Changes in personality and behaviour
 
CAUSES
Recent studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.  Presence of plaques and tangles inside brain cells leads to decline and eventual cell death. Factors like – age above 65 years, Down syndrome, female sex, Mild Cognitive Impairment or head trauma in the past, diabetes, stroke and heart problems increase the risk for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
 
MANAGEMENT
Apart from pharmacological treatment, psychosocial intervention is also an imperative part of the treatment process. It is important both for the patient and also for his/her caregivers. 
  • Supportive therapy – A form of psychotherapy in which the therapist assists the patient and the caregivers deal appropriately with a range of emotions like despair, anger, feelings of helplessness and sadness that they experience because of the illness.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation – Training the patient to engage in mentally challenging activities like solving puzzles, Sudoku, scrabble, etc.
  • Memory aids – Memory deficits is one of the main features of dementia. Helping the patient remember things by maintaining a pocket diary, making note of important dates and contact numbers, preparing flashcards, labelling rooms at home so that they do not lose their way, setting reminder notes in phone for medicines, etc.
  • Ensuring that they maintain their self-care and engage in activities of daily routine like grooming, cooking, buying stuff from the grocery, reading and doing something that they enjoy the most.
  • Being patient and caring towards the patient will lessen the difficulties he/she has to go through because of the disease. It will also provide a healthy home environment for the caregivers to live in.
 
'Alzheimer's is the cleverest thief, because she not only steals from you, but she steals the very thing you need to remember what's been stolen'
                                                                                                                                                                                                - Jarod Kintz

 


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