By Dylan Deprey
As parents or grandparents start to age into their retirement years, certain memories may start to slip. They may draw a blank to the name of the street their local gym is on. Slight hiccups in memory, like forgetting a recent acquaintances’ name is normal during old age.
What is not normal is taking a midnight stroll in sub zero temperatures during the middle of winter in only a pair of pajamas and duck slippers. What is not normal is driving five miles in the opposite direction to end up making a U-Turn and drive the car into a ditch.
Whether it is a batch of cookies forgotten in the oven turned apartment fire or forgetting to stop the bathtub from running and an accidental flooding, when left unattended Alzheimer’s disease can pummel a destructive path for its victims and their families.
As the clocks fall back in the last leg of 2016, around 5 million Americans have been living with Alzheimer’s. With longer life expectancies and the aging baby boomer generation this number is said to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s is the number 6 cause of death in the country, and 1 in every 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Even with all of the numbers and staggering statistics Alzheimer’s Association community outreach coordinator Gail Morgan said that minus a few pockets of affected people, there is a common lack of knowledge about Alzheimer’s.
“For the most part people don’t often know about this disease because it gets mistaken for the normal aging process,” Morgan said. “It is more then the normal aging process it is a disease that destroys the brain.”
Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by a combination of misfolded proteins in the brain, otherwise known known as plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These distorted proteins block communication pathways in the brain and brain cells, according to Medical News Today.
The proteins slowly deteriorate sections of the brain that control short term memory, mood, logical thought, vision and long term memory. Eventually the region that controls breathing and heart rate is attacked, which ultimately ends in death.
Researchers are still searching for a cure, but have focused on finding treatments to prolong the diseases degenerative effects. There are no disease modifying drugs on the market, but doctors prescribe medicine to curb the symptoms.
For some people, just hearing that their loved one has Alzheimer’s is hard to digest, especially if they do not know what it is or want to believe it. Situations like this are where the Alzheimer’s Association excels.
Morgan participates in Care Consultations in which she educates families who are not all on the same page.
She said that sometimes it takes a little more then just facts and figures to convince a person that Alzheimer’s deteriorates the brain. She regularly resorts to showing her slides of a side-by-side comparison of a healthy brain versus a deteriorated Alzheimer’s affected brain.
“Sometimes people need visuals,” Morgan said. “It is not meant to scare them.”
Other times it is a little more difficult to get through to people, especially if they do not even want to learn about the disease itself.
“It helps sometimes, and in other cases you just can’t change a persons mind,” Morgan said.
Morgan said that in circumstances where a person diagnosed or undiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is living alone and nothing is done, it can end in a crisis situation and ultimately a state mandated nursing home.
“We need to break it down for them and tell them that what they think their family member is doing on purpose is not on purpose, and are not safe in their current environment,” Morgan said.
To many people Alzheimer’s is primarily associated with the elderly, but Morgan said that it is not necessarily the case.
Although the greatest risk factor is age, it is a misconception that people under 65 cannot develop Alzheimer’s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s could occur as early in adults in their late 30’s and early 40’s.
Morgan added that the community should work to become educated about Alzheimer’s disease, and be able to catch the warning signs for a friend, family member or even themselves before it is too late.
Alzheimer’s Association: 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Memory Loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3.Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4.Confusion with time or place
5.Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6.New problems with words in speaking or writing
7.Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8.Decreased or poor judgment
9.Withdrawal from work or social activities
10.Changes in mood and personality
For more information call the 24/7 Helpline at 1.800.272.3900 or visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at http://www.alz.org/