When most people think of Alzheimer’s disease, they think of elders who suffer from memory loss. Most of us imagine silly occurrences in which an elder forgets something simple; a birthday, a name, their own address. The truth is that while memory loss is a common symptom of the disease, the forgetfulness that an individual with Alzheimer’s disease endures is much more involved than a simple slip of the mind and is not the only symptom. Also, while many of us view Alzheimer’s as a disease of the elderly, the truth is that Alzheimer’s is found in individuals as young as forty years old. This is referred to as Early Onset Alzheimer’s and occurs in roughly 10 percent of people with Alzheimer’s. This amounts to about 400,000 people in the United States!
Knowing the warning signs of Alzheimer’s is the most important thing to know about the disease, because of the importance of early detection. Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection allows for earlier treatments that may help to slow the progression of symptoms, as well as better planning for the future of a loved on. The most common symptoms and some examples of the symptoms are as follows:
•Memory loss-this is not normal memory loss like forgetting an appointment, but includes more persistent memory loss such as forgetting often or forgetting recently learned information
•Difficulty performing familiar tasks-preparing a meal or making a phone call
•Problems with language-forgetting familiar words that one may use everyday
•Disorientation to time and place-this can lead to becoming lost and wandering
•Poor or decreased judgment-giving large sums of money to telemarketers
•Problems with abstract thinking-such as balancing a checkbook
•Misplacing things-putting an iron in the freezer
•Changes in mood or behavior-rapid mood swings for no apparent reason
•Changes in personality-confusion, suspicious, fearfulness
•Loss of initiative-not wanting to do usual activities
While these are all common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is important to note that having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have Alzheimer’s. The symptoms may be caused by some other health condition. If you have symptoms from this list, it is important to talk to your physician and voice your concerns about Alzheimer’s. Only your physician can perform tests to see if your symptoms are Alzheimer’s related.
The most alarming aspects about Alzheimer’s disease are the future projections of the disease. It is estimated that we will see a 44 percent increase in the United States in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2025. For Indiana, it is estimated that 130,000 individuals in 2025 will have Alzheimer’s compared with 100,000 individuals in the year 2000. Even more alarming are projections for the year 2030 when the youngest of the baby boomers will be greater than 65 years old. When this occurs it is estimated that the United States will have nearly 7.7 million people affected by the disease.
While the symptoms and projections of Alzheimer’s disease can be in the very least frightening, it is important to bring these issues to light. The importance of early detection and the need for more research makes learning about Alzheimer’s necessary. This is not merely a disease of the elderly. This is not the simple forgetfulness of a grocery list and this is no longer something we can choose to ignore. This is a serious brain disease that needs our attention. It not only affects the lives of the individuals suffering from the disease, but it affects families, friends, and caregivers. It affects neighborhoods and communities just like ours.
*All information in this article provided by and obtained through the Alzheimer’s Association.
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