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Alzheimer's Disease is a gradual and irreversible decline in memory, perception of time and space, speech and eventually, the ability to care for one's self. It is the most common cause of loss of mental function in people aged 65 or older and affects more than 4 million people in America. The brain of an Alzheimer's patient shows abnormally shaped proteins in an area that most commonly affects memory.

Risk Factors and Age Issues

The cause of Alzheimer's is a mystery, although a family history of the disease is often present. Head injury, Down Syndrome, exposure to environmental cause, viruses and food-borne poisons have all come under suspicion as causes, but no definite link has been found. The diagnosis of Alzheimer's is usually made by ruling out other causes for the symptoms since microscopic inspection of the brain is the only sure way to determine the presence of the disease.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Dealing with Alzheimer's and Other Age Related Dementia

The onset of Alzheimer's disease is usually slow and gradual. Common, everyday tasks become unfamiliar and intimidating. As the disease progresses, patients will have problems with even remembering what day or year it is. Behavioral changes are also common, including suspicion and delusion. Eventually, the patient becomes completely incapacitated and unable to perform basic functions like eating and using the bathroom. Developing pneumonia and other illness is common in those suffering from Alzheimer's.

The ten most common warning signs of the presence of the disease include memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and space, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking, misplacing things, changes in mood or behavior, changes in personality and the loss of interest in activity.

Easing the Impact

The fear and frustration experienced with the progression of Alzheimer's disease is devastating. There is no medical treatment to cure the disease, although some new drugs have been shown to temporarily improve or stabilize memory in some individuals. Allowing professional healthcare providers to care for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other age related dementia could provide reassurance for the patient and for family members.

What Can You Do To Help

Alzheimer's disease can take a dramatic toll on both the patient and those who provide care. A structured environment can assist families during the progression of the disease. Open communication with staff about changes in a loved one's behavior is important to dealing with the challenge of providing care for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

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