Living With Alzheimer’s

Published by Steve Hedberg on June 8, 2009 Under dementia

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s and so a large part of treatment of Alzheimer’s involves learning to live with the disease, with the education of the other family members playing a major role in treating Alzheimer’s. The degree at which the symptoms of Alzheimer’s effect individuals greatly varies, but most people are able to live and function at an adequate level for most of the diseases lifeline.

One of the most important things to remember is that Alzheimer’s does not impair an individuals ability to love or be loved, which is something that remains a key ingredient in learning to live with Alzheimer’s. With proper treatment, a number of the symptoms, such as depression and or paranoia, can be minimized.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

One of the most important parts of treating Alzheimer’s begins with recognizing the symptoms of the disease and speaking with a doctor. There are also several tests that can be used to determine if Alzheimer’s is present. This is possible, because Alzheimer’s actually causes a number of microscopic changes to the brain. These changes were first noticed by Alois Alzheimer, for whom the disease is named, in 1906.

Computed tomography, or CT, Scans are one of the quickest ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s, although in the early stages it is not always as obvious. For this reason, a CT Scan can not be solely relied upon to diagnose the early stages of Alzheimer’s. A CT Scan can, however, help eliminate other conditions that share similar symptoms with Alzheimer’s, so is still a very valuable tool.

There are a number of other scans that can be used to help determine if Alzheimer’s is present. This includes position emission tomography(PET) scans and single photon emission computed tomography(SPECT) scans, which help map blood flow, metabolism rates, and the distribution of receptors in the brain. In many cases, these types of scans are able to show abnormalities that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s. Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) scans are often used as well.

Doctors are continuing to find other ways to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, by mapping some of the physical and chemical changes that are caused by Alzheimer’s.

Doctors often also rule out other disorders that share similarities with Alzheimer’s, which is a process referred to as Diagnosis By Exclusion. There are a number of psudodementias that can be easily tested for, yet share a number of similarities to that of Alzheimer’s.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

For some time, Alzheimer’s, and specifically dementia, where thought to be a normal part of the aging process. This is not the case though and understanding this was one of the first steps in learning how to treat Alzheimer’s.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, so one of the main focuses is using care in place of a cure. Learning how to successfully care for an individual with Alzheimer’s is essential.

Creating a Safe Environment

Often, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be increased by environmental factors, such as problems at home, so reducing stress and providing a loving and caring home environment is essential. This can be very difficult for the family, however, who often have trouble dealing with the effects Alzheimer’s has on their loved one.

Since environmental factors can aggravate the effects of Alzheimer’s, providing a low stress and safe environment is very important. This includes reducing the likelihood of the individual falling down the stairs.

Decreasing Frustration, Depression, and Anger

Reducing he individuals frustration is also very important, which can be achieved by providing clues in the living area to reduce memory loss, which causes stress. To achieve a balance between safety and reduced frustration, a move to a nursing home is sometimes required.

Depression, which is often a leading symptom of Alzheimer’s, can often be largely prevented or its effects at least reduced. This can have a major impact on the individuals mental health, even though the actual causes are not being addressed. This is often achieved by dealing with other disabilities, not directly linked to Alzheimer’s.

Addressing the Needs of Other Family and Caregivers

One of the most important steps in dealing with Alzheimer’s is to reduce the stress of the family and caretakers. It is essential to reduce the level of burden caused by Alzheimer’s, because this can have an effect not only on the mental health of the caretaker, which can reduce the overall quality of care provided.

Understanding that the mental health of the caretaker is important is essential, because as Alzheimer’s progresses it is not uncommon for the caretaker to experience guilt, pain, anxiety, and anger. These emotions can lead to reactive depression. It is very important to have a network of emotional support provided for the caregiver, such as by other family members or a medical professional.

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