Alzheimer’s disease also referred to as Alzheimer’s or Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer’s type is a chronic disease that was first explained by Alois Alzheimer and later named after him in 1906. He was baffled at the rate at which the disease affected people who were aged above sixty-five years. Further research showed that a disease is a form of dementia and that it could also occur in younger people than the perceived over sixty fivers. The disease is characterized by loss of memory and impairment in thinking faculties. The ability of a patient to reason is severely hindered by the disease as it affects the mental ability (Soukup 56). The disease has also been reported to affect the five common senses i.e. touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing abilities of diagnosed persons. The disease is attributed as being the most common form of dementia in most countries in the world.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Stages of the diseases are categorized into four main stages and all exhibit different forms of impairments.
Pre-Dementia: This form of Alzheimer’s is very mild and is often confused with signs of old age. This form of Alzheimer’s occurs sometime before the full form of Alzheimer’s manifests itself. It occurs mostly eight years before the individual is diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s. Symptoms are normally detected in the performance of intricate day-to-day activities that require full use of memory e.g. mathematical calculations and the inability to acquire and store new knowledge.
Early Dementia: As time goes by the symptoms of Alzheimer’s become more prominent whereby the individual displays learning difficulties and also the execution of movements. Learning disabilities are caused by loss of memory hence making it hard for the individual to even communicate (Soukup 69). Research has shown that recent information or memory is easily disregarded than older memory e.g. childhood memories. Difficulty in communication is manifested through decreased fluency in oral communication. Illegibility in handwriting is also characterized as movement coordination is also hindered.
Moderate Dementia: As time goes by the disease starts taking root with day-to-day activities severely hampered. The individual may become incoherent when speaking. Their reading and writing abilities are also hampered which is followed by a lack of movement coordination. By this time, their memories are diminished and there are some extents where the patient cannot recognize some of their relatives (Mace 22). Patients are also found to be more irritable leading to major emotional stresses if no proper care is given.
Advanced Dementia: This stage of dementia is characterized by the patient being wholly dependent on the caregivers as they cannot perform most of the day-to-day activities. The patient is totally bedridden as movement from one place to another becomes more difficult. Communication between the patient and caregivers could be through signals or thought phrases (Mace 23).
Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are various theories that try to explain the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, the first theory is based on the cholinergic hypothesis, which describes the onset of AD as being caused by the reduced production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. A second theory is based on the amyloid hypothesis which suggests that an increase in a particular protein is commonly referred to as a beta-amyloid protein. Excessive production of the protein has been found to lead to the death of nerve cells in the brain. The protein plays a significant role by acting as a depressant on the synaptic functions of the brain. The second theory has been found to be more plausible because of the location of the gene on chromosome twenty-one.
Many cases of cognitive disability are blamed on dementia, which could be a result of brain injury or disease in the brain. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, erratic attention such that one may tend to focus on one thing for too long and the next time he may lose concentration. One’s problem-solving skills become heavily degraded. The problem with dementia is that it is hard to diagnose by the time the real problem has been identified (Sangram 78). If in a sensitive environment where the disease can be easily diagnosed it can take up to six months for dementia to be discovered. By this time cognitive disability will have already manifested itself. As witnessed all around that lifespan are increasing and the year’s people are living are getting longer and longer. This has been attributed to a better diet and less manual work. So the number of aged has also increased and in every town, the number of aged is rapidly rising. Dementia also on the same citizenry has also increased. Estimates report that the cases of dementia are increasing and by 2030 we will be having approximately 465,000 cases in the US alone.
People with dementia are most likely to fall under the bracket of people whose ability with an issue with cognitive disability. There are many forms of dementia ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Brains of people with Dementia are relatively small and also have lumps made up of a protein called plaques. Due to the increasing nature of dementia, we are seeing more and more of the aged having problems in the reporting of pain while he is still enduring a lot of pain. hence the identification of pain for people with a cognitive disability becomes a major task to be discussed in this paper as the conclusion of the experiments will lead to a breakthrough in coming up with a treatment that will enable the healing of the root cause of the pain. Institutionalization of people affected by Dementia has also been on the rise as reported by the increasing number of adult day care reporting even though the adult daycare facilities offer the aged persons activities and social interaction that would lead to one improvement in cognitive functions.
Persons with cognitive may not openly display pain; some may rock back and forth as a signal of what he/she is feeling (Petersen 101). Some may take a radical turn and withdraw from persons making them look shy but in truth are feeling pain. Aged persons may lash out at family members and friends when she is being assisted in for example climbing the stairs, while all the people might be quick in blaming dementia, it could be as a result of her wound that could have been conceived when she fell down when no one was around. Many ailments like wounds from falling down, arthritis and a whole range of ailments can easily go undetected. It is the work of caregivers and family members to ask the patient about what could be disturbing them after the display of some behavior. Close family members are the best people who can make observations on whether someone is displaying signs that could mean that they are feeling pain. Thankfully there have been a host of tools including online sources that can be used to identify pain in persons with less cognitive abilities
The disease is normally diagnosed from simple observations made by close family members and relatives, historical patient records to complex techniques that involve the scanning of the brain using MRI or CT scanners. There are also other forms of dementia hence a thorough diagnosis has to be done in order to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Further assessment of mental functions can point out at which stage the disease may be afflicting the person. Diagnostic criteria have been formulated and standardized by many medical organizations so as to enable practicing physicians to point out the disease without making errors during diagnosis.
Prevention measures pertaining to the disease are varied as no definite method of prevention has been found to be one hundred percent conclusive. Researchers have however shown ha there is a relationship between diet and the onset of the disease. A more nutritious diet results in the delayed onset of the disease (Minaker 89). Some pharmaceutical products are also attributed to lowering instances of AD as using the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for a long time can reduce the chances of the disease occurring. Habits such as smoking and too much alcohol have been found to increase the chances of the disease occurring.
The disease has been found to have no cure but can be managed using various drugs such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. The other way that the disease can be managed is through psychosocial intervention and lastly through the introduction of understanding caregivers to the patient.
Mace, Nancy. The 36-hour day: a family guide to caring for persons with Alzheimer disease-related illnesses, and memory loss in later life. New York: Warner Books, 2001. Print.
Minaker, Kenneth. Alzheimer disease: neuropsychology and pharmacology. London: Oxford Publishers, 2004. Print.
Petersen, Ronald. Mild cognitive impairment: aging to Alzheimer’s disease. London: Oxford University Press, 2001.Print
Sangram, Sisodia. Alzheimer’s disease: advances in genetics, molecular and cellular biology. New York: Springer, 2007. Print
Soukup, James. Alzheimer’s disease: a guide to diagnosis, treatment, and management. Sydney: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.Print.