Today marks World Alzheimer’s Day – a day to raise awareness of the disease, which is the most common cause of dementia.
So, what exactly is Alzheimer’s?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, ‘the word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.’
Alzheimer’s was named after the doctor who discovered the debilitating disease, Alois Alzheimer, and it’s estimated that over 520,000 people in the UK alone suffer from the progressive condition.
Alzheimer’s Society states, ‘During the course of the disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually, to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.
‘People with Alzheimer’s also have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain. These chemical messengers help to transmit signals around the brain. When there is a shortage of them, the signals are not transmitted as effectively.’
What symptoms do you need to look out for?
If you’re worried that you or a loved one may be at risk of Alzheimer’s, check out the symptoms below:
- Loss of memory – this can include forgetting about life events and retaining information such as misplaced items, people’s names and day-to-day schedules.
- Repetition of sentences or struggling to keep up with a conversation.
- Navigational skills such as walking down stairs, parking a car or judging distances become impaired.
- Lack of concentration around conversations, daily tasks and decision making.
- Experiences of anxiety, depression or irritability.
- Often appearing delusion or experiencing hallucinations.
- Agitation and acting aggressively towards people.
- Trouble sleeping.
- During the later stages, the person in question may suffer from a loss of appetite.
- Trouble walking without aid.
Who is most at risk of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s Society says that, ‘most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease, do so after the age of 65, but people under this age can also develop it.’
Above the age of 65, ‘a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles approximately every five years.’
Women are 2x more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s then men, and it’s been said that ‘medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart problems, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, are all known to increase the risk of both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.’
How you can help an Alzheimer sufferer?
Living with, or looking after someone, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is a huge challenge, but these useful tips below can help make life a little easier and brighter for Alzheimer patients:
- Make them feel valued and supported. It’s a lot to process for Alzheimer sufferers when they have been diagnosed with the disease. By being on hand to lend your support and help, you’ll have created a safe environment for the person diagnosed to feel reassured and cared for.
- Being sensitive to their needs. Ensuring the wellbeing of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is imperative, as this is a life-changing event that can be very difficult to process. By effectively communicating with the person in need to understand their requirements, you’ll have a clear requisite of what is expected of you.
- See things from their perspective. Understanding Alzheimer’s disease and the damaging effect it has on sufferers and their families can be particularly difficult. Take some time to research the symptoms and put yourself in their shoes. How would you act if you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? How would it impact you and your family?
- Focus on the positives. By focusing on the positives, it will improve morale and mood with the person suffering. Discuss what they’re thankful for – it could be anything from having a loving family, to owning their own home. Positive affirmations will help put things into perspective and emphasise the good around them.
- Encourage a social life. Just because a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t mean their social life has to suddenly end abruptly. Getting the person involved in social activities is a way to make them feel included and continue with a ‘normal’ routine.
Remember, sufferers and carers are not alone. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you’re caring for someone who has been afflicted with the illness, there is so much support to lean on.
This World Alzheimer’s Day, we’re getting involved in raising awareness of the disease and bringing it to everyone’s attention. Spread the message to family and friends by sharing this article, and let’s come together to recognise the impact of Alzheimer’s disease across the world.