Alzheimer’s Disease as an Age-Related Topic

Introduction

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the severe conditions associated with aging and affecting the elderly population. It causes challenges associated with thinking, memory, and behavior. This paper defines the problem and discusses its cultural, financial, ethical, and legal aspects. The report provides interventions that can be used to eliminate the issue and addresses the available resources and the possible costs as well.

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Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease and a type of dementia, which causes problems associated with thinking and reasoning, memory, making judgments, and behavior among patients (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). This condition is degenerative; its symptoms become worse as time passes. The primary signs of Alzheimer’s disease are difficulties in remembering information, recent events, and conversations. Patients living with the condition may also repeat questions and statements several times, forget names of family members, get lost in familiar places, and misplace possessions (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2019). In addition, they may encounter challenges associated with multitasking, concentrating, planning, and managing finances. Individuals having Alzheimer’s disease may also experience depression, inability to fall asleep, apathy, mood swings, delusions, and social withdrawal (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2019). Notably, the causes of the condition are not fully clear; the problems in the functioning of brain proteins in addition to lifestyle and environmental factors are the core contributors to its development.

Scientists believe that the disease starts to affect the human body significantly earlier than the first symptoms occur. It begins with insignificant changes in the brain, which may happen two decades before a patient can notice the symptoms (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). With time, the symptoms may start to interfere with the patient’s ability to complete daily tasks. This issue is related to aging because it mostly affects people over the age of 65, meaning that increasing age is one of the significant risk factors for the condition (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2019). Thus, it is crucial to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease in older individuals.

As mentioned above, the primary population group the condition affects is individuals over 65 years old. Almost 5% of all individuals of this age group have symptoms of the condition; in addition, Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in more than 15% of people age 75-84 and around 30% of patients age 85 or older (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Notably, family history may not affect the development of the condition, but it is a significant factor contributing to the prevalence of the illness.

There are several culture-related factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Babulal et al. (2019) report that individuals are coming from populations characterized by the lack of formal education and literacy levels are more likely to experience the symptoms of the illness. The reason for it is that lower cognitive reserve is one of the factors contributing to the development of the condition. In addition, the levels of social and cognitive engagement are also significant aspects related to Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). For instance, groups of individuals that have a high level of social activity due to their cultural background are less likely to experience the symptoms of the illness. These facts reveal that some people from some cultures may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which means that it is crucial to outline preventive measures with reference to culture-related factors.

Alzheimer’s disease has significant financial implications, as currently, the total cost of care for individuals having Alzheimer’s disease is $290,000,000 a year (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). An individual receiving inpatient hospital care pays around $11,300 per year, while a patient receiving home healthcare is usually charged around $2,500 per year. These data reveal that the management of the disease is cost-intensive for both individuals, hospitals, and insurance companies. It means that it is crucial to develop effective preventive measures that would reduce the costs of care.

The primary legal implication of Alzheimer’s disease is that, as mentioned above, the changes in the person’s brain may be present while the symptoms may not be evident at the early stages of the condition. Such a problem leads to the outcome that, from the legal perspective, the individual may not be eligible for security disability benefits while living with the disease (Preston et al., 2016). In addition, this issue results in difficulties associated with insurance coverage. From the legal perspective, the case of an individual presented above shows that the person does not have any reported chronic conditions, as no symptoms are evident. However, if the disease will be identified in the future, it is unclear whether the insurer should be required to cover the cost associated with treatment and management of the condition (Preston et al., 2016).

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Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have several ethical implications, too. One of the significant problems medical professionals encounter is that it is unclear at what stage therapeutic interventions are already ineffective (Watt, Jenkins, McColl, Collins, & Desmond, 2019). It means that clinicians should make the decision of stopping treatment at some point, which may place an ethical burden on them due to responsibilities associated with such a decision. Alzheimer’s disease and its causes remain understudied topics, which result in the ethical challenges associated with them.

Possible Interventions, Available Resources, and Costs

As mentioned above, the financial implications of the management of Alzheimer’s disease show that it is crucial to develop strategies for preventing the condition in patients and reduce the costs of care. One of the interventions that can be suggested is the maintenance of social and intellectual activities among the groups that are at risk of developing the disease. This can be done through the establishment of centers that will help individuals to socialize and acquire new skills. For instance, individuals at risk can learn foreign languages within such centers and attend conversation clubs.

The significance of social and intellectual activities and related interventions is supported by various studies of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, Cheng (2016) notes that cognitive activities are associated with an almost 50% decline in the risk of developing dementia. The author adds that such an effect is permanent and can last for up to four years. In addition, social and intellectual activities can lead to a later onset of symptoms (Cheng, 2016). Notably, it is not necessary for patients to participate in complex sets of such activities. Even playing chess or solving crossword puzzles can be effective in minimizing the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease in elderly patients (Cheng, 2016). Thus, it is vital to develop a set of possible interventions because their positive impact can be much more significant than the possible expenditures.

There are various resources available for possible interventions based on the types of activities that will be offered to the population. For instance, for language-learning programs, the primary resource is local volunteers from diverse communities, who can host conversation clubs in their native languages and help patients to learn them. In addition, it may be crucial to collaborate with medical professionals working with elderly patients. Although the participation of healthcare providers may be cost-intensive, it may help centers for patients at risk to analyze which activities can be the most effective for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Notably, there is no need to establish centers at specifically designated venues. Social and intellectual activities can be held in local hospitals; this way, no additional funding will be needed. Local non-profit organizations can fund the suggested interventions because they do not require large expenditures but can improve the well-being of communities at risk significantly. Thus, associated financial costs are relatively low, and the primary concern is the needed human resources.

The suggested interventions can be considered sustainable because they ensure that the needs of patients can be met at reasonable costs and without potential ethical or legal challenges. In addition, they are beneficial for the communities at risk of developing the condition, as they do not require additional expenditures from individuals. Finally, the interventions are sustainable because they do not compromise other groups’ and populations’ abilities to meet their needs.

Conclusion

The report shows that Alzheimer’s disease is one of the challenges associated with aging. Its symptoms include problems with memory, judgment, and behavior, as well as depression and apathy. Current treatment measures for the condition are cost-intensive, which means that preventive measures should be implemented. The suggested intervention is the establishment of centers offering intellectual and social activities for communities at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

References

Alzheimer’s Association. (2019). 2019 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 15(3), 321-387

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Babulal, G. M., Quiroz, Y. T., Albensi, B. C., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Astell, A. J., Babiloni, C.,… Chételat, G. (2019). Perspectives on ethnic and racial disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias: Update and areas of immediate need. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 15(2), 292-312.

Cheng, S. T. (2016). Cognitive reserve and the prevention of dementia: The role of physical and cognitive activities. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(9). Web.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019). Alzheimer’s disease. Web.

Preston, J., McTeigue, J., Opperman, C., Krieg, J. D. S., Brandt-Fontaine, M., Yasis, A., & Shen, F. X. (2016). The legal implications of detecting Alzheimer’s disease earlier. AMA Journal of Ethics, 18(12), 1207-1217.

Watt, A. D., Jenkins, N. L., McColl, G., Collins, S., & Desmond, P. M. (2019). Ethical issues in the treatment of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 68(4), 1311-1316.

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