Alzheimers Disease

.. ors leading outside (Alzheimers disease sufferers are known to wander off); clearing floors of clutter; and reducing the contents of closets in order to simplify choices (Alzheimer, 1992, p.17). Costs are typically paid for by the victim’s family. Many of these, and other more expensive modifications are introduced in long-term care settings.

They help in maintaining the safety and security of the victim as well as reducing their confusion.The patient’s and the family’s condition should be assessed every six months (Alzheimer, 1992, p.21). In response to constantly changing needs, the aspects of care must be constantly modified. Other issues that usually arise during the care of the patient are assessment of the competence of the victim, power of attorney, and response to and prevention of abuse (Aronson, 1988, p.124). Eventually the victim’s condition deteriorates to the point where home care is no longer possible and they must be moved to a long-term care facility. Any care giver must obtain information and education about the disease in order to effectively care for the victim.

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During the course of the disease victims might wander, hallucinate, or become suspicious. This behavior can place a large strain on the care giver as well as causing depression and deterioration of their own health (Aronson, 1988, p.132). An Alzheimers disease support group is crucial to alleviating some of the stress on the care giver. Through a support group the care giver is given the emotional and practical help needed to accomplish the large task of looking after the victim for as long as possible.

An estimated four million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, and about one in every 10 Americans 65 and older has the disease (Evans, 1989, p.131). But that overall figure is misleading. According to a large survey of retired individuals, risk of Alzheimer’s disease changes considerably during the older years: From age 65 to 74, about 3% of people are affected.From age 75 to 84, the figure rises to 19%, and for those 85 and older, Alzheimer’s afflicts 47% (Evans, 1990, p. 4). Currently the U.S.

population is aging, with people over 85 becoming the nation’s fastest-growing age group. Because this is also the group most affected by Alzheimer’s disease, experts warn that unless researchers discover how to prevent the disease, by the year 2050, as many as 15% of those over 65 might have Alzheimer’s. These large and increasing figures translate into a large burden on the health care system. Even when using the most conservative estimates of the average number of years spent in an institution and the number of afflicted Americans, the costs to health care are immense.At $33,000 per patient per year in an institution and with an average stay of three years until death, the cost of Alzheimers disease will amount to $3 billion over the next few years; and if the entry into the disease state remains constant, it will cost the American taxpayer [an added] $1 billion per year thereafter (Brassard, 1993, p.11). Alzheimers disease is a democratic disease. It affects persons of both sexes and all races and ethnic backgrounds.

The major risk factors for Alzheimers disease are age and heredity. Persons with a high incidence of the disease in their family history are most susceptible.A specific subtype of Alzheimers disease exists that is solely connected to heredity. This subtype is known as Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). FAD is also known as Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease, named so because its symptoms start to develop much earlier than in the regular sporadic type. Only 5%-10% of all cases are of this type. FAD is suspected when Alzheimers disease can be traced over several generations and there is a history of (among previously affected family members) a similar age of onset and duration of the disease (usually 4 years).

Approximately 50% of the children of an affected parent go on to develop the disease (Pollen, 1993, p.89). Much research has been conducted in an attempt to locate the gene that is responsible for FAD. Currently, researchers have isolated genes 1, 14, and 21 (Alzheimer’s, 1996, p.36). However, the evidence still remains inconclusive (Statement, 1996, p.

2). There is also a possibility that a specific genetic mutation merely puts a person at risk to the disease and Alzheimers disease is triggered by an external force, like a head injury (Statement, 1996, p.4). Finding the specific location of the gene will pave the way for a diagnostic or even predictive test for FAD.Similar genetic tests already exist for cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Locating the Alzheimers disease gene will also allow scientists to study why the particular gene is not functioning properly and may give clues for treatment and possible cures.

The long term goal of this research is the same as that of any other genetic research and that is gene therapy – which is the possibility that science could one day alter our genetic make-up. The other much more common type of the disease is Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease (SAD). This includes all other types of the disease which are not linked to heredity. Genetic research is also playing a major role in the progress towards a diagnostic or predictive test for SAD. Recently, a gene involved in the transport of cholesterol has been identified to be associated with Alzheimers disease.Apolipoprotein E is located on chromosome 19 and seems to contribute to the susceptibility of a person with Alzheimers disease (Statement, 1996, p.

6). The gene exists in three different forms or alleles (Apo E 2,3,4) and each person has a combination of two of the three. Thus an individual can have any one of the following combinations: Apo E 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 2/3, 3/4 or 2/4. Researchers have found a relationship between the number of copies of the 4 allele and the person’s probability of developing the disease.

For example a 75 year old individual with the Apo E 4 genotype has approximately a 20% chance of remaining normal; Apo E 3/4 or 2/4, 40%; 2/2, 3/3 or 2/3, a 75% chance (Institute, 1996, p. 6).For many years, scientists believed that aluminum was at the root of Alzheimers disease.

High levels of aluminum were detected in the areas surrounding the beta-amyloid plaques associated with neural atrophy (Pollen, 1990, p.77). Recently however, this theory has been abandoned. Scientists concluded that the build-up of aluminum was a direct result of the wrongful use of a particular test agent employed in the studies (Brown, 1992, p.6). Some of the current pursuits of research are in the areas of viral infection, malfunction of the immune system, and chemical imbalances.

One of the hardest theories to disprove is that Alzheimers disease is the result of a slow acting virus present at birth (Carlton, 1996, p.13). Others believe that Alzheimers disease is an immune system disorder.Support for this theory comes from the presence of beta-amyloid plaques identical to those found in Alzheimer-diseased brains in the post-mortem examinations of immuno-deficiency disease victims (Alzheimer’s, 1996, p.22).

The detection of lower neurotransmitter substances such as acetylcholine, serotonin, norepinephrine and somatostatin in Alzheimers sufferers forms the basis of another theory that says Alzheimers disease is brought on by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Treatment of patients with drugs that block the breakdown of neurotransmitter substances in the brain have been met with limited success (Brassard, 1993, p.16). Alzheimers disease is an enormous social and economic problem. As the population ages, the number of victims will steadily increase, imposing a massive burden on the health care system. Until a cure and effective treatment are found, Alzheimers will remain a terrible disease that slowly eats away at that which is the very essence of a person: their mind, leaving in its wake a mere empty shell of that person.

It takes away from all of us the insightful wisdom of one of society’s most prized possessions – the elderly. Psychology Essays.