Alzheimer's: There Is Hope
Strictly for Seniors
Alzheimer's is a progressive neurological disorder causing severe loss of higher intellectual functioning. It is often confused with arteriosclerotic brain disease, which is marked by slowly worsening vagueness and confusion in those over 70.
As there are no tests to determine one from the other, diagnosis is usually made on how the patient looks, thinks and behaves. This type of diagnosis is referred to as based on clinical grounds. Some of the differences to note are that Alzheimer's will usually begin in a patient in there 50's or 60's. It is much more progressive than arteriosclerotic brain disease and the extent of neurological impairment is more profound.
Alzheimer's is much more severe causing one to lose their power of cognitive thinking to a greater degree. Emotional outbursts are exhibited, mental handicaps become prevalent and every day tasks such as eating and bathing need supervision.
There are authorities that do not accept the diagnosis of arteriosclerotic senility but believe that such patients have a form of Alzheimer's or perhaps another neurological defect entirely. This is important to note in determining if one truly has Alzheimer's. Thus, the need for physicians to diagnose based on the above mentioned factors. The bottom line here is, Alzheimer's and senility are completely different problems but treatment in each is similar.
Until very recently, a diagnosis of Alzheimer's was basically a diagnosis of the beginning of the end. Now, however, amazing and dramatic advances have been made in the understanding and treatment of Alzheimer's. There are now three medications available for patients with this disease. With these new medications now on the market, the need for nursing home care can be delayed for many years. This helps preserve a family financially but more importantly, mentally.
Curcumin and Alzheimer's Disease
India boasts one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) in the world. And researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles are linking curcumin - the principal compound in the popular Indian spice, turmeric - with protection against AD. Curcumin appears to slow the formation of, and possibly even destroy, the accumulated plaque deposits that are at the root of AD. Try including this zesty spice more often in your favorite dishes.
The new medications are designed to increase the concentration of the naturally occurring brain chemical, acetylcholine. Alzheimer's patients are lacking in this chemical, causing the slowing down of the learning and memory abilities. Current drugs help mask the symptoms of Alzheimer's, but do not treat the underlying disease.
The first official medication on the market for Alzheimer's is called Cognex. It was first introduced in the early 1990's. Although helpful, it did have three problems. It was difficult to swallow, was not at all well tolerated and caused some very serious side effects.
Next came Aricept in 1996, a more potent medication with 80 percent of those prescribed showing improvement in memory and function. In the year 2000, the drug Exelon was introduced for mild to moderate Alzheimer's symptoms. The year 2001 brought us Razadyne for mild to moderate symptoms. The year 2003, Namenda for moderate to severe symptoms. Namenda is still widely used.
Finally, the medication Exelon became available. This drug is taken twice a day and is well tolerated. The dosage can gradually be increased without any serious side effects.
None of the aforementioned drugs can promise a miracle cure for Alzheimer's disease, but they do provide hope for the future. It was not too long ago there was absolutely no hope. One was left helpless while the disease slowly and agonizingly did its damage.
Many of the drugs developed aim to modify the disease process itself, by impacting one or more of the many wide-ranging brain changes that Alzheimer's causes. These changes offer potential "targets" for new drugs to stop or slow the progress of the disease. Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a "cocktail" of medications aimed at several targets.
Proper Patient Care
Along with the medications and ability of an Alzheimer's patient to remain in the home for a much longer period of time, comes the concern of proper care for the patient. The physical environment of the home becomes exceedingly important after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's patients are often prone to panic and frustration along with aggressiveness. A good balance of sensory stimulation along with sensory calm will help the individual with memory loss avoid stress and agitation.
Close supervision is required with an Alzheimer's patient as is emotional and physical support for both the patient and the caregiver.
To help your loved one sleep better, use the following tips:
- Keep interior lighting at "daytime" levels until bedtime.
- At bedtime, darken sleeping areas.
- Maintain familiar household routines.
- Provide daily opportunity for safe walking activity and physical exercise.
To help prevent your loved one from becoming too agitated or stressed, try the following suggestions:
- Decrease any and all unnecessary noise. If your TV is often on, try to practice using it less often.
- When you speak, speak in soothing tones and stay focused on one subject matter.
- Learn to deal with small details that annoy you to avoid arguments. Work with the rest of the family to avoid confrontations and petty arguments. Try not to take your frustrations out on the patient. If there are just two of you and you find yourself becoming annoyed at little things, seek a support group or confide in a close friend. Holding in the aggravations will not help you help your loved one.
- Keep your home organized and avoid clutter.
- Place familiar items such as pictures and the like within the visual field of the patient.
- Keep the colors of your home soft and muted.
- When physically dealing with your loved one, do so in a slow manner, using a gentle touch.
- Be sure to use chairs with gliders on them to enable movement.
Help prevent injuries to your loved one by:
- Removing access to any and all harmful items such as knives, guns, tools, etc.
- Again, avoid clutter, especially in frequently used walkways.
There is no escaping the fact that watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer's is a painful and most difficult dilemma to be faced with. Where there is finally help available, there is still no cure. The anguish of the inevitable will still exist, but with each day modern medicine is making advances. Recent findings have lent more hope for help with Alzheimer's than ever before and this is a viable cause for clinging to hope.