Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects the brain’s comprehension. It is a progressive and terminal disease that can last 2-20 years (average 8 years). 1 in 8 people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s Disease. By age 85, it increases to 50%. It is the fourth leading cause of death in older adults (seventh overall), and all by itself, it will bankrupt the Medicare system.
Early diagnosis of AD is critical. There are several disorders that can look like Alzheimer’s. Before concluding that a person has AD, rule out the following reversible and treatable diagnoses: depression, drug interactions, thyroid disturbance, malnourishment, dehydration, fluctuating blood sugars, chronic infections (including Urinary Tract Infection and Pneumonia), and brain tumor or head trauma.
There are some early symptoms: personality change, decreased executive functioning (balancing a checkbook), getting lost in familiar places, impaired judgment, decline in language and verbal skills, and social withdrawal. I know most of us are panicked that we will someday have memory problems. I once heard someone say that forgetting where you put your car keys is normal. Forgetting what the car keys are for, might be a major dementia.
The National Institute on Aging has released a free guide for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s Disease. I have provided a link here to that guide.