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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