Did you know, an estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia and about 5 million of them are Americans? It’s also projected that Americans living with dementia will increase to 14 million by 2050. Can you imagine waking up one day and not being able to recognize your loved ones or not even knowing where you are or how you got there? I just can’t fathom the thought of not being able to remember someone I love or my loved one not being able to remember me. So how are we able to cope with a disease that can easily take over you or your elderly loved one?
First, we need to understand what dementia is and how it’s affecting your loved one or yourself. Dementia is the umbrella term for an individual’s changes in memory, thinking or reasoning. Under this particular umbrella, I’m about to discuss, there are four types of dementia; Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies and Frontotemporal dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s, which affects about 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.
Believe it or not, Alzheimer’s is not a part of aging, it is a progressive brain disease. Two abnormal brain structures called plaques and tangles are the biggest part of Alzheimer’s disease. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau that builds up inside cells. Moving along to Vascular dementia, this type affects a person’s thinking skill by reducing the blood flow to the brain and depriving the brain cells from oxygen and nutrients. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. Dementia with Lewy bodies is a type of progressive dementia that deposits abnormal amounts of protein which end up damaging the brain and may cause hallucinations and problems with sleep. Furthermore, Frontotemporal dementia is a group of disorders caused by progressive cell degenerations in the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain.
Now, let’s get into the risk factors of what increases the development of dementia. Age is the number one biggest factor when developing Alzheimer’s. Once you hit age 65 your risk of developing the disease doubles every five years. About 35% of people age 85 or older have Alzheimer’s. Family history also comes to count due to genetics. You are more likely to get the disease if someone in your family has had or has dementia. It also increases if more than one person has the disease. Research has shown that Hispanics, African American, and women are at higher risk of developing the disease. Hispanics are about one-and-a-half times more likely to develop the disease, while Africans Americans are about twice as likely. Due, to Hispanics and African Americans having a higher rate of vascular disease, it may put them at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s. Also, woman live longer than men which puts them more at risk. Although age, family history and genetics are all risk factors that can’t be changed there are other ways that you are able to prevent the development. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between serious head injuries and future risk of Alzheimer’s. It’s always important to protect your head from any future injuries and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Furthermore, there are three stages to having Alzheimer’s which are early, middle and late stage. According to www.alz.org this is what you can expect in every stage:
In the early stage, a person may function independently. Those close to the individual may begin to notice difficulties, including:
» Problems coming up with the right word or name.
» Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people.
» Challenges performing familiar tasks.
» Forgetting material that was just read.
» Getting lost in familiar places.
» Increasing trouble with planning or organizing.
Middle-stage Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care. At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:
» Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history.
» Feeling frustrated, angry or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations.
» Confusion about where they are or what day it is.
» The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or occasion.
» Trouble controlling bladder and bowels.
» Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and restlessness at night.
» An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost.
» Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior.
In the final stage of the disease, significant personality changes may occur and extensive help with daily activities and personal care will be required. At this stage, individuals may:
» Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings.
» Experience changes in physical abilities, including walking, sitting and, eventually, swallowing.
» Have greater difficulty communicating.
» Become increasingly vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia.
In conclusion, finding out that you or your loved one has a form of dementia can cause distress. However, it’s important to become informed and knowledgeable about what is to come. I really hope this blog is able to help and educate people that are currently or may deal with this disease in this future. For more information please visit https://bit.ly/2JyBDWJ.
Thank you for reading and let’s recognize Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Mari Diaz, Administrative and Marketing Assistant