Do you know someone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s or Dementia?
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known yet but researchers have identified risk factors associated with it.
The most important risk factor is aging. A minimum age needs to be reached for Alzheimer’s disease to develop. People do not get the disease in their teenage years or even in their 20s. It is well-established that aging can impair the body’s self-repair mechanisms. And of course, many of the risk factors increase with age, such as blood pressure, stress, and obesity.
There is no doubt that genetics play a role in the disease. Yet only a small percentage of cases is associated with the specific genes that cause the inherited form of the disease. Risk genes increase the likelihood of developing a disease, but do not guarantee it will happen.
Research is being done on other factors such as existing diseases or conditions that the person may have, infections, toxins in the environment, education level, alcohol and tobacco use, diet and exercise.
10 Warning Signs
To help you know what warning signs to look for, the Alzheimer Society has developed the following list:
1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
It’s normal to forget things occasionally and remember them later: things like appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal.
3. Problems with language
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget simple words or substitute words, making her sentences difficult to understand.
4. Disorientation of time and place
It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination — for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.
5. Poor or decreased judgment
People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have decreased judgment, for example not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
6. Problems with abstract thinking
From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a cheque book. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the cheque book mean.
7. Misplacing things
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
8. Changes in mood and behaviour
Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit varied mood swings — from calm to tears to anger — for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in personality
People’s personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.
10. Loss of initiative
It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a variety of brain disorders. Symptoms include loss of memory, judgment and reasoning, and changes in mood and behaviour. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, in relationships and in everyday activities.
Several conditions produce symptoms similar to dementia. These can include depression, thyroid disease, infections or drug interactions. Early diagnosis is essential to make sure that people with these conditions get the right treatment.
If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and available treatment options.
Regardless of the type of dementia, people who have dementia and those who care for them can get information and support from the Alzheimer Society.
Alzheimer Society of Canada 2013. Retrieved December 2013 from www.alzheimer.ca