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Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s and dementia affect millions of people every year. However, due to the lack of awareness, many of these cases remain untreated. The misinformation that surrounds ageing, dementia and Alzheimer’s often mean help is often sought at the last stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly slow down the progression and increase life expectancy. 

We offer world-class evidence-based treatment that is fit for all stages and all types of dementia. At Cadabams, we care for you. We are the only psychiatric institution in India to be recognised and supported by CNTW and NHS. For more details, reach out to us on our 24X7 dementia helpline @ +91 7353226622, or mail us at info@cadabams.org.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Understanding both the terms

Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain. It is a neurodegenerative disorder which means that it is a progressive disease that breaks down and destroys neuronal connections in the brain. This causes a decline in memory, thinking, behaviour, and other mental abilities. In early stages, it may be harder to diagnose. Early diagnosis has been found to help slow down its effects and help patients cope effectively.

Dementia is a term used to define a decline in the mental ability of a person including memory loss, difficulty in thought processing, problem-solving and language. While the symptoms develop slowly, they eventually become severe enough to hinder a person’s ability to function at work or even perform his usual day-to-day activities. Dementia is caused by brain damage. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia and it accounts for 60-80 percent of dementia cases.

In India, more than 4 million people have some form of dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia (According to Alzheimer’s Association). Alzheimer’s is the most common form of senile dementia, affecting maily people over 60. It is a progressive form of dementia, meaning that the conditions aggravate with time and the changes slowly interfere with the daily life of the individual.  Alzheimer’s is speculated to be caused by deteriorating brain connections and brain cell death. 

Most often, Alzheimer’s is left unrecognised and instead tied to normal aspects of ageing which is an incorrect assumption. This reflects the unawareness around this disorder. Alzheimer’s is not just forgetfulness but it is a chronic, serious process of forgetfulness that interferes with the individual’s life on a day-to-day basis. Alzheimer’s can be caused due to a multitude of reasons which are explored later in the article.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a decline in brain function that affects thinking, memory, language, judgment, and behaviour. As we get older, most of us will experience some difficulties with memory. We’ve all sometimes forgotten a name, where we placed the car keys, or why we walked into a room. But this is forgetfulness in general and does not necessarily indicate dementia.

Dementia is a combination of symptoms that indicates that thinking processes are deteriorating, affecting the person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

What are the causes of Alzheimer’s?

  • Old age – Advancing age puts a person at greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s. As per a study, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years after the age of 65 and reaches almost 50 percent after the age of 85. Yet it is not just a disease of old age. Around 5 percent of Alzheimer’s patients experience the early onset of the symptoms in their 40’s or 50’s.
  • Genetics – Inheriting APOE-e4 gene from parents puts a patient at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The APOE-e4 gene is implicated in 20-25 percent of Alzheimer’s cases. The risk is proportionally linked to the number of gene copies inherited from parents. Although it is not a certainty, the presence of the gene can trigger the early onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Family history – Research indicates higher chances of developing Alzheimer’s, in case one has a parent, sibling or relative suffering from the disease. This can be a result of either genetic or environmental factors affecting them.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Inability to take-in new or remember new information, like forgetting regular appointments or losing personal belongings, etc.
  • Poor reasoning or judgment.
  • Difficulty in decision-making.
  • Trouble in understanding visual images or three-dimensional objects.
  • Confusion with time and place.
  • The problem with conversing, reading, and writing.
  • Repeating conversation.
  • Difficulty recognizing common objects, familiar faces, and places.
  • Frequent and random mood changes.
  • Frustration or feeling irritable.
  • Withdrawal from social situations.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. The symptoms are very mild in the initial stages, making it difficult to detect early on. By the time the disease is detected, most patients can’t even carry on a conversation or even respond to any engagement.

Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s to Observe in a Loved One

  1. Memory loss: Forgetting recent information is one of the most common possible early signs of dementia. A person will forget more often and the person is unable to recall the information later.
  2. Difficulty in performing familiar tasks: People with dementia and Alzheimer’s often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks including personal grooming and household management.
  3. Problems with language: People with Alzheimer’s and dementia often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their writing or speech hard to understand.
  4. Disorientation to place and time: People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighbourhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment: Those with Alzheimer’s or dementia may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking: They may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.
  7. Misplacing things: A person with dementia may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
  8. Change in mood or behaviour: Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.
  9. Change in personality: People with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely suspicious, confused, fearful or dependent on a family member.

The Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia 

Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact the performance of daily activities, communication abilities, and memory. Whereas, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, which gets worse with time and affects memory, language, and thought. Although the symptoms of the two diseases may seem similar and overlap, you must understand dementia and Alzheimer’s differences. This is very crucial for the management and treatment of these diseases.

As per research, an individual lives only an average of eight years, once he or she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, with proper psychiatric and medical care, the life expectancy can be increased.  Hence, it is important to speak up about Alzheimer’s and encourage the patient and their families to speak their minds for timely diagnosis and treatment.

Care for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients

We encourage you to seek professional help if you see these signs of dementia in yourself or a loved one. Early diagnosis of the disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step to getting proper treatment, care and support services.

For dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers: If you have concerns that a loved one might have some form of dementia, or if your loved one has been diagnosed, feel free to ask for help. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s can get help in the early stages by coordinating with medical professionals, securing a good diagnostic workup, learning  what to expect and the different treatment options, and planning ahead.

Often, family members have trouble because their loved one does not wish to acknowledge there is a problem and they do not know how to get them to accept help, or even go to a specialist for an evaluation. Our professionals can be invaluable in strategizing ways to work through these challenges. Our community and home care plans, crisis management plans can be of great help in such scenarios. 

Why Cadabams?

Everyone has a role to play in being supportive of issues related to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Support refers to the action a person can take to create a change; a change in the life of oneself and a loved one suffering from the disease. It also refers to the things we do to improve our and our loved one’s  by simply seeking help. 

At Cadabams, we have over two decades of experience in handling the rehabilitation and unique needs of elderly dementia patients. Our services are distinguished by the expertise of our healthcare professionals, calibre of our caregivers and the responsiveness of our staff. Our cognitive therapeutic plans focus on fun ways to keep the patient’s minds and memories  sharp and active. 

We don’t just offer care plans for seniors. We also work with families to deliver world-class personalised caregiver support plans to ensure that we bring energy, independence and joy to their lives. Our care team also takes care that you have clear lines of communication with healthcare professionals. To gain more information about how to help a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s, or for any help you require, feel free to call us @ +91 96111 94949 or mail us at info@cadabams.org.

Disclaimer – We strive to treat our patients with dignity and the utmost sensitivity. We understand that mental health illness is a disease and not a sign of weakness. The term mental health issue is used not in a derogatory fashion but to remain relevant to user search trends and common usage. In case you or a loved are struggling with dementia or you are caring for one, do share your unique viewpoint on how we can improve this content for our readers, please reach out to us at info@cadabams.org