Alzheimers Disease Essay Research Paper Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimer?s Disease Essay, Research Paper

Alzheimer?s Disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in

impaired memory, thinking and behavior (Internet). It is a degenerative disease

affecting nerve cells of the frontal and temporal lobes of the cerebrum of the

brain. The disease is the major cause of presenile dementia (i.e., the loss of

mental faculties not associated with advanced age) and is thought to be the

largest single cause of senile dementia as well (Britannica, 306). It causes the

connections between cells to become ineffective and the cells themselves to

shutdown and eventually die (Davies, 1). Alzheimer?s is a progressive,

irreversible, fatal neurologic disorder that affects an estimated 4 million

American adults. It is estimated by 2040,approximately 14 million Americans will

be diagnosed with Alzheimer?s Disease. Approximately 9% of the population

older than 55 years and 20% of those older than 85 years have Alzheimer?s

Disease. The duration of AD averages 2 to 10 years but can be up to 20 years. By

1992, Alzheimer?s Disease was the fourth leading cause of death among adults

(more than 100,000 American deaths per year). It is projected that the number of

people with Alzheimer?s Disease will triple in the next 50 years. This

epidemic of dementia is not confined to sex, race, social, or economic class.

The public knows this disorder as ?senility?, although the term

Alzheimer?s is becoming more common (Rosdahl, 1356). According to a quote from

Hasselbring ? Alzheimer?s disease.? Medical Self-Care 53-

57,January-February, 1986, a 61-year-old woman in early stages of Alzheimer?s

disease stated, ?My mind goes to an empty and horrible place. When I come

back, I?m in a room full of strangers. I fell so lost and afraid.? Many

Alzheimer?s patients echo these sentiments. The disease is frightening and

disabling (1356). Alois Alzheimer, a German neuropathologist, originally

described the disease in 1906. In the autopsy of a 55-year-old patient who had

died with severe dementia, Alzheimer noted the presence in the brain of two

abnormalities (Britannica, 306). Recent studies have shown that in the autopsies

of the brain of people who have died from Alzheimer?s, there is much higher

concentration of aluminum than is normal (Weiner, 17). Accounting for about half

of all dementia cases, Alzheimer?s is more common in certain groups. Women are

at higher risk, so are those who have a first-degree relation with the disease,

or a history of head trauma (RN magazine, 26). Unfortunately, many people fail

to recognize that these symptoms indicate something is wrong. They may

mistakenly assume that such behavior is a normal part of the aging process; it

isn?t. Or, symptoms may develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time.

Sometimes people refuse to act even when they know something is wrong. It?s

important to see a physician when you recognize these symptoms. Only a physician

can properly diagnose the person?s condition, and sometimes are reversible.

Even if the diagnosis is Alzheimer?s disease, help is available to learn how

to care for a person with dementia and where to find assistance. Ten warning

signs to watch for are: (1) memory loss, (2) difficulty performing familiar

tasks, (3) problems with language, (4) disorientation of time and place, (5)

poor or decreased judgement, (6) problems with abstract thinking, (7) misplacing

things, (8) changes in mood or behavior, (9) changes in personality, (10) loss

of initiative (Internet). Typical problems that should alert us that a person

needs some kind of help are repeated car accidents, getting lost, losing things

and not recalling the previous day (Davidson, 13). Symptoms of the illness

represent deficits in many areas of how a person remembers and thinks. For

instance, problems with memory may be manifested as forgetting names, dates,

places, whether a bill has been paid for, or something said over and over.

Intellectual abilities are lost eventually. Reasoning with the affected person

is no longer a successful way to understand and deal with his problems.

Judgement about common everyday situations is drastically diminished. The

individual?s capacity to express himself verbally gradually shrinks. Neither

is he able to comprehend what others say to him. As the disease progresses, he

may gradually lose the ability to speak. Psychiatric symptoms such as delusions

and hallucinations can occur. The person can become anxious, restless, agitated,

and may even appear to be depressed. His personality will change. In fact, he

may not seem to be the same person (Gruetzner, 9). Alzheimer?s disease begins

insidiously and progresses slowly but inexorably, until the sufferer cannot

attend to the simplest details of self-care and may not even remember his or her

name. Although the symptoms may vary from patient to patient and from day to day

in an individual, there are certain common features in all patients, and the

disease follows a somewhat predictable path. Initially, the victim may just

exhibit a lack of energy, drive, and initiative, and neither he nor his family

may be aware that anything is really wrong. The individual may just avoid new

challenges and seek refuge in familiar situations. For example, he may want to

visit only family members and close, old friends rather than go to new places

and meet new people. However, with time, greater changes in mental function and

behavior begin to appear, and the disease can traditionally be divided into

three clinical stages. The individual will forget the names of persons well

known to him; he will also be unable to remember where he puts carious objects,

such as the car keys or his wallet, or what day of the week, month or year it

is. He will start forgetting to attend appointments he has made or get lost

trying to find places that were once very familiar. In the beginning, such

episodes of forgetfulness may just be minor annoyances to the individual and his

family, and he may still be able to function reasonably well. Eventually though,

lapses of memory will become debilitating (Weiner, 27). The symptoms of

Alzheimer?s disease include gradual declines in memory, learning, and

attention, and judgement; disorientation in time and space: word-finding and

communication difficulties: and changes in personality. These symptoms may be

somewhat vague at first and mimic mental illness or stress-related problems. For

example, an executive may not be managing as well as he once did, making bad

decisions with increasingly frequency and missing deadlines. Insidiously but

inexorably, the changes become unable to add two numbers together. Similarly, a

previously talented hostess may no longer be able to set a table. The

personality of the patient may change markedly: an outgoing, vivacious person

may become quiet and withdrawn; a gentle, caring partner may become aggressive

and indifferent. Emotional symptoms, including depression, paranoia, and

agitation, may occur intermittently. During the course of the illness, the

patient?s needs for care escalate. Of the four-plus million Americans with

dementia, one-third are so impaired that they can no longer manage without

assistance in the simplest daily routine activities of eating, dressing,

grooming, and toileting (Aronson, 6). Alzheimer?s disease appears to run in

families. Immediate (?first-order?) relatives of a patient with the disease

have a great risk of developing the disorder themselves. But the incidence of

the disease as it occurs in both identical and fraternal sets of twins, though

somewhat elevated, is not convincingly high enough to ?prove? a hereditary

link. It is thought that the disease may be inherited in some families as an

autosomal (any chromosome other than those that determine the sex) dominant



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