Alzheimer's: Help, Support and Overcome
Alzheimer’s is a neuro degenerative disorder which is fatal in nature. In this disease, the brain cells gradually die, rendering the patient with a very limited or no intellectual and social skills, and a heavily compromised mental and physical state. The primary cause of the disease is unknown. Although, it was believed that Alzheimer’s is strictly a genetic condition, in the recent past, many cases have been observed wherein there is very little or no genetic interference. Most doctors believe that as opposed to the disease afflicting only people who are genetically prone to it, there is a good chance that lifestyle factors and environmental factors also play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
It is observed through microscopy results that tangles and plaques in the brain are seen in individuals who fall prey to Alzheimer’s. Plaques are clumps of a protein that coagulate and form a cluster like formation. These clusters interfere with osmosis, cell to cell communication and also blood flow becomes restricted. As a result, the cells start processing beta myloid proteins in an abnormal manner and the by products are harmful to the cells themselves. In turn, the cells perish and neural wastage sets in.
If you imagine the brain as a network of interconnected wires, these wires carry nutrients, electrical impulses and various other proteins to different parts of the brain. These wires get jumbled and interfere in the smooth flow of the activities. Thus due to lack of nutrition, some cells eventually die. These are called ‘tangles’.
Alzheimer’s is likely to afflict the aged, more often people over the age of 65 years. However, sometimes the disease can affect people nearing 50 years, early forties or even as early as the late 20s. But, these cases are extremely rare. Women are more prone to it because they tend to live longer than men. Lack of exercise, excessive drinking or smoking, high cholesterol, uncontrolled diabetes are other high risk factors.
Help and Support for Alzheimer's
There are three stages of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Stage one is when the patient seems to be suffering from mild confusion, dementia, disorientation and memory loss. With the onset of stage two, the patient might undergo compete disorientation, show loss of cognitive ability, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, anxiety and loss of decision making ability. Loss of independence, loss of reasoning and logical abilities, loss of voluntary bodily functions, loss of bladder control, moaning, grunting involuntarily, wandering characterize stage three.
There are no tests which can detect the presence of the disease. Particularly, it is through a process of elimination that the doctor can come to any conclusion. Psychological tests, reflex testing, balance testing and sensory testing are particularly applied in the first stage of diagnosis. Blood tests are performed to confirm whether or not the memory loss is caused due to other medication or any other pre-existing condition. Finally, an MRI or a CT scan is deployed and this confirms the presence of plaques and tangles which is the stark feature of Alzheimer’s.
The most important part of an Alzheimer’s patient’s treatment is to keep him/her to the closest possible range of normalcy. As the disease progresses, the patient’s dependence on his/her caretakers increases. Someone has to be at their beck and call. Cholinesterase inhibitors are administered to boost cell to cell communication. Medications like aricept, razadyne, exelon and namenda might be given.
An environment of support and love has to be created for the patients to overcome their social withdrawal. Mild exercise like walking must be included in their daily activities. Their diet must be healthy and protein rich to help with the convalescence. Social engagement and intellectual stimulation are known to avoid decline in cognitive function.