Alzheimers is a disease of the brain that causes a steady decline in memory. This results in dementia, which is loss of intellectual functions severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting ten percent of people over 65 years old, and nearly 50 percent of those age 85 or older. My grandmother was diagnosed with probable Alzheimers disease over two years ago.
After finding this out, I wanted to know more about this particular disease.
Alzheimers disease usually begins gradually, causing a person to forget recent events and to have difficulty performing familiar tasks. How rapidly the disease advances varies from person to person. Communication becomes difficult as the person with Alzheimers struggles to find words, finish thoughts, or follow directions. Eventually, people with Alzheimers become totally unable to care for themselves. My grandma is very close to this point.
Scientists are still not for certain what exactly causes Alzheimers disease. Research suggests that the central problem is malfunction and death of nerve cells, but scientists are still working to learn why this happens. Key areas of study focus on biochemical processes and pathways in nerve cells, effects of inflammation, and the influence of genes. Many experts believe that it usually arises form a complex combination of factors.
Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimers disease. It strikes individuals from every walk of life, every ethnic group, and every income level. Family history is another big factor. Having a parent or sibling with the disease increases a persons chances of developing Alzheimers. Scientists have found one gene that raises Alzheimer risk as well as several faulty genes causing rare forms of Alzheimers that tend to occur before age 65.
There are many affects of having Alzheimers disease. One of the most common is forgetting recently learned information. While its somewhat normal to forget appointments, names, or telephone numbers, those with Alzheimers will forget such things more often and not remember them later. They also find it hart to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually dont stop to think about how to do them. People with Alzheimers will also often forget simple words or substitutes unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand.
People with Alzheimers usually have disorientation to time and place. They can become lost on their own street, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home. They also have poor or decreased judgment. They may dress without regard to the weather or give away large amounts of money. Alzheimers causes people to have problems with abstract thinking. When balancing a checkbook they could completely forget what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.
A person with Alzheimers disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. They also show rapid mood swings- from calm to tears to anger- for no apparent reason. Their personality changes, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member. Alzheimers can make a person become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.
Alzheimers doesnt just affect the person who has it. It affects the entire family. One in ten American families has a loved one with Alzheimers disease. Alzheimer caregivers feel alone and disconnected from friends, and are often unable to do errands or complete household tasks. They also experience stress, feel like they need a break, but may not have anyone to relieve them or refuse assistance when its offered.
After learning about Alzheimers and doing this essay, I understand it a lot more. My grandma has most of the affects of this disease. She is to the point where she cant take care of herself anymore. Therefore, she is living with my family. Its been pretty hard seeing her go through all of these things. I also realize that my family and I are going through a lot of the affects that families go through as caregivers. Im glad I understand more about this disease, but its still going to be a long road of struggles and heartbreaks.