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Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s most recent statistics, 5.4 million Americans suffer from the disease, including 200,000 under the age of 65. Nearly half of Americans over 85 today are also diagnosed with this disease. It is estimated that by the year 2050, up to 16 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s.
Vascular dementia, resulting from stoke, is the second leading cause of dementia. It is essential to understand that dementia symptoms can also be caused by various other diseases, thyroid problems, drug interactions, depression, and even vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s impacts the short-term memory. At first, symptoms may be only mild forgetfulness. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Such difficulties usually are not serious enough to cause alarm. As time passes, they may forget how to do simple tasks, like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly and may develop paranoia toward family, friends and caregivers. They also begin to have problems reading and writing. As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients need total care—exhibiting severe physical impairments like an inability to walk or even to speak or swallow.
In the end stages of the disease, they often require a secure, and eventually, even a locked environment specially designed for dementia patients. The course the disease varies from person to person. On average, Alzheimer’s patients live from 8 to 10 years after they are diagnosed. However the disease can last for as many as 20 years.
Family members, caregivers and friends know something is wrong, but people experiencing memory loss or other symptoms of dementia often don’t realize their functioning is impaired. It is a difficult problem to face even with the support of family, friends and caregivers. Unfortunately, half of the Alzheimer’s patients who are living alone do not have an identifiable caregiver.
Sometimes what is diagnosed as Alzheimer’s or dementia is nothing more than symptoms of a treatable disease or simply a medication interaction where the symptoms can be reversed. That’s why an accurate diagnosis is our priority at Heritage Hall. We can refer our patients to dementia specialists who can conduct full-spectrum diagnostics to reach an accurate verdict. Even if Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, early diagnosis allows you and your family to plan for the future. Early diagnosis also allows you to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides an opportunity to volunteer for clinical trials or studies.
Intervention methods are improving dramatically and treatment options and sources of support can significantly improve quality of life. The Alzheimer’s Association provides two helpful internet resources you can connect with: ALZConnected, for the Alzheimer’s Association’s messages boards and online social networking community; and Alzheimer's Navigator, a web tool that creates customized action plans, based on answers you provide through short, online surveys.
If you need assistance finding a doctor with experience evaluating memory problems, contact your local Heritage Hall or your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter that can be located on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.
Heritage Hall’s Apple Grove Program
Most Heritage Hall facilities have the training and security to meet the needs of patients with early or mild dementia. When the disease progresses to stages where a locked dementia unit becomes necessary, we will guide you through the transition to this specialized level of care. The Apple Grove program, at selected Heritage Hall locations, specializes in the care of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This carefully designed, secure environment has specially-trained staff, customized private activities, and offers dining spaces and a protected outdoor garden area.