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Help with Alzheimer’s Disease

Today I attended a talk at one of my professional associations on Understanding Dementia in the elderly. It was so informative that I wanted to share some of what I learned. The speaker, whose name escapes me just now, emphasized that dementia is a general condition, whereas Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia. He said that dementia is “a condition causing a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills, which can be caused by injury or disease. Some of the symptoms are memory loss, disorientation, problems doing complicated tasks, language problems, concentration problems, loss of visual spatial skills, difficulty with previously familiar skills, and personality changes.

Some examples of problems with language are finding the right word, making up words, forgetting English if it was learned as a second language, and difficulty reading or writing. Problems with visual spatial skills might be getting lost, seeing a dark carpet as a hole, seeing a shiny floor as wet, or seeing stairs or shadows as frightening.

The causes of general dementia can be varied, and some are reversible, which is why thorough diagnosis by an internist and a neurologist who specializes in this area is so important. Reversible causes include hormonal or thyroid problems, medication interactions, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, depression, or infections. Other causes that may not be reversible include Parkinson’s disease, post-stroke dementia, and the presence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease directly impacts the physical structures of the brain, and can be seen with different types of imaging studies. Little by little, different areas of the brain are affected, which is why symptoms change over time.

In the talk, the speaker presented many different ideas that can help. The most important issue, other than accurate diagnosis, is for the family and other caregivers to become educated about dementia, so that they understand what is going on for their loved one. One of the best places to get more information is at the website of our local Alzheimer’s organization, located in Camarillo. There you’ll information about the disease, support groups for caregivers, legal, financial, and insurance information, and more. It’s well worth a visit.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • MXN August 14, 2008, 11:52 am

    Hello,

    My grandmother has Alzheimers disease and are family is trying to fight the battle of exceptance and understanding. There are people in my family my mothers brothers who ignorantly don’t except that she has Alzheimer’s and how serious this is. They look at this from the outside looking in because they don’t visit often or even take the time to take care of their mother. My mother and two other aunts take care of her including myself. I’ve seen my grandmothers mood changes and I’ve seen her agressiveness towards people. She cannot be left alone and it has advanced I would say to a high moderate stage. She is always angry and upset at my grandfather and now she says people want to kill her. She is also a Nicotine addict and when a cigerrete is not supplied to her she becomes even angryer. What help can I get?? what can I do to help people in my family understand that she is not faking it, that she is really sick and needs everyones attention and understanding. Its to the point where my uncles are even embarrases of their own mother out in public. Can someone please help.. I guess selfishly people never expect to hit their families and when it does it makes it of course harder……….

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