Who are you again?So, what do we really know about Alzheimer’s?
Unfortunately, as life expectancy increases and other factors play a contributing role as well, it is very likely that you will be asked this question by a family member of yours at some point in your life, possibly by someone that has known you forever and very well. Funny though this may sound for anybody who hasn’t experienced Alzheimer’s disease in their direct environment, in reality it isn’t. It is the least creepy if not very, very sad. It is an extremely extraordinary situation that really astonishes with its repercussions on the affected person and their family. And while most of us try to remember if this disease existed at all some 20 or 30 years ago, scientists warn that Alzheimer’s is here to stay and to laugh in the face of medicine, which has managed to make people older but not to protect them from “losing their mind”, so that they can enjoy these extra years.
So, what do we really know about Alzheimer’s?
First things first, Alzheimer’s is a form of a broader-spectrum condition called dementia. Dementia is nothing sort of a set of symptoms that have to do with memory-loss, cognitive disorders and character changes, all with a serious impact on the individual’s functionality1. It is considered to be a condition of the old and after the age of 65 its frequency increases significantly. The onset is insidious and it is believed that brain alterations take place a long time before symptoms become noticeable2. Scientists strive to define the causes but nothing is known for sure yet. According to assumptions and beliefs, genes as well as external factors like the educational level and eating habits play a role in getting Alzheimer’s2. At the same time, it becomes clearer and clearer that mental, physical and social exercise protects against the disease.
Alzheimer’s symptoms are pretty famous, as they have an innate comical element that intrigues a layman’s curiosity. Apart from the most widely known manifestations of the disease, there are others, which can make an appearance quite early in the course of the disease and which can easily be mistaken for other things like aggression, bad behavior or purposefully different behavior in general, thus delaying diagnosis. Examples are a failure to handle financial matters, a need for more time in order to complete regular tasks, a lack of inhibitions, mood swings and other character changes2. Such behaviors or the more classic ones – memory loss manifestations like repetition of questions – should ring alarm bells and prompt a visit to a neurologist. Medicinally, little can be done; although there are available pharmaceutical treatments they can’t do wonders and they certainly don’t freeze the disease or reverse it. Treatment is mainly supportive and demands effective collaboration and organization, so that this huge task doesn’t unequally burden a few – usually one – individuals.
It always makes one wonder when people say “The thing that I am afraid of the most is getting Alzheimer’s”. An instant reaction of any logical a man to such a declaration would be, that there are far worse things to be afraid of than spending the last years of your life a little “off”. A deeper consideration of the matter, however, would probably reveal the truth in these words, since nothing is perhaps more important in a man’s life than their dignity, self-respect and self-definition of one’s own identity; moreover, sentiments, good or bad, make life juicy and bearable, so not being able to partake in any of these things ought to be scary after all!. If you want to learn more about what you can do to lessen your chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or how you can handle it in case you come upon it, you can find plenty useful and reliable information online. Interesting sites to check out are: alz.org, alzheimers.org.uk and nhs.uk. And don’t forget to solve crosswords puzzles!