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Alzheimer’s Disease and its complications

Alzheimer’s Disease and its Complications

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurological disorder of the brain. Accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases, Alzheimer’s stands as the leading cause of this cognitive decline. It results from the death of the brain cells and gradually destroys memory and thinking abilities. As the disease advances, it impacts other regions of the brain that govern reasoning, judgment, and behavior. Eventually, it disrupts the ability to complete the simplest tasks of day-to-day life.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Research is ongoing to develop new treatments and find a cure. But early detection and management of cognitive and behavioural symptoms can help improve the quality of life.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is not a typical sign of ageing. It’s a result of complicated changes in the brain that occur years before symptoms become noticeable. These changes lead to the loss of brain cells and their connections with the brain. And thus affect a person’s cognitive abilities and behaviour. And it’s progressive, which means symptoms develop over time.

Loss of short-term memory is one of the most common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It manifests as difficulty remembering recent events, names of people, or important details. It’s important to note that progression and symptoms may vary among individuals. The most common symptoms at different stages are as follows:

Early Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease :

  • Mild memory loss, like difficulty recalling recent events or names
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts or finding the right words
  • Challenges with problem-solving or planning
  • Misplacing objects and struggling with organization
  • Mild confusion or getting lost in familiar places

Middle Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease :

  • Increased memory loss and confusion
  • Repeating questions or statements
  • Difficulty recognizing friends and family members
  • Problems with language, including difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Trouble handling finances
  • Changes in behavior and personality, such as agitation or aggression
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Trouble with basic tasks, such as dressing or eating independently

Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease :

  • Severe memory loss, unable to recognize loved ones
  • Loss of ability to communicate verbally
  • Complete dependence on others for daily activities
  • Poor motor function, including difficulty walking
  • Increased vulnerability to infections and other health complications

Risk Factors: What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease

The disease occurs when abnormal proteins build up in the brain and interfere with the normal functioning of brain cells. These proteins form clumps called plaques and tangles. They can disrupt the connections between brain cells and eventually lead to their death. As brain cells die, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse over time. The exact cause of the protein buildup is not fully understood, but scientists believe it to be a combination of the following factors:

Age

With ageing, the brain undergoes natural changes that lead to cognitive decline and memory loss. Other chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease can reduce blood flow to the brain.  As a result, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases significantly. This risk doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Genetic

Genetics play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but the risk is relatively low. In particular, mutations in certain genes can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. The most common gene associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s (occurring after the mid-60s) is called APOE. But, having this gene does not guarantee that a person will develop the disease.

Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder. It is characterized by developmental delays, intellectual disability, distinctive facial features, and a higher risk of certain health conditions. Individuals with Down Syndrome have a higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The link between the two is believed to be associated with the genetic makeup of both conditions.

Gender

Research has shown that more women are being diagnosed with the condition than men. One possible explanation is that women tend to live longer than men, and age is a known risk factor for Alzheimer‘s. Additionally, hormones may play a role, as changes in estrogen levels during menopause can affect brain function.

Head injury

Serious head injuries, such as concussions, may elevate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

These risk factors are uncontrollable. But many others are controllable and depend on lifestyle choices. Monitoring health and wellness with awareness can help with risk reduction and early intervention. These are:

Cardiovascular health

High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol can contribute to the risk.

Lifestyle factors

Poor diet, lack of physical exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, etc.

Complications of Alzheimer’s Disease

As Alzheimer’s progresses to its advanced stages, it causes severe erosion of a person’s physical and cognitive ability. These can manifest as maintaining balance or experiencing weakness, difficulties with swallowing, or dysphagia. These complications can have significant consequences for the person and their loved ones. Of course, these complications can vary depending on the specific condition and individual factors but generally include the following:

Malnutrition

Individuals may experience a loss of appetite, difficulty with chewing and swallowing, and a poor sense of taste and smell. Difficulty in swallowing food can cause aspiration pneumonia. It occurs when food or liquid enters the lungs instead of the stomach. Malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system, decreased muscle mass and strength, and a higher risk of infections and falls.

Increased vulnerability to infections

Individuals may become more vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections. These infections can further exacerbate the disease’s symptoms. Or it may add more complications, including sepsis, dehydration, and further cognitive decline.

Sleep disorder and restlessness

Unusual changes in the brain affect the sleep-wake cycle. As a result, Individuals with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in their sleep patterns. These include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up early. They may also experience restlessness during night, raising the risk of falls and injuries.

Loss of independence

Individuals become dependent on others for help with daily tasks such as eating, bathing, and dressing. The decrease in balance and coordination increases their risk of falls, injuries and dependence on others. This loss of independence can be difficult for individuals to come to terms with.

Mood and behavior changes

Complex changes in the brain and the stress of living with the disease can also cause significant changes in a person’s mood and behavior. They may become easily confused, disoriented, and forgetful. This can include depression, anxiety, irritability, agitation, and even aggression.

Cognitive decline

Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects a person’s cognitive abilities. With advancement, individuals face trouble completing simple tasks, recognizing familiar faces, and communicating. Difficulty in communication makes it even harder to receive timely medical attention.

How Senocare Supports Alzheimer’s Patients and Families

We understand how stressful and challenging it can be to navigate the hardships of dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia. At Senocare, we provide unwavering support and care to patients and their families in the comfort of their own homes. Through our compassionate services, we aim to alleviate the burden and offer a helping hand during this difficult journey. The range of Alzheimer’s support includes medical and non-medical care:

  • Management of medications
  • Safety concerns and counselling
  • Specialized nursing care for Alzheimer’s patients with other health conditions
  • Monitoring for depression, anxiety, or stress
  • Nutrition and physiotherapy support
  • Assisting with daily hygiene activities
  • Companionship and emotional support

Our team is committed to walking alongside you every step of the way. You are not alone in this journey, and we are here to provide the assistance, understanding, and care that you and your loved ones need. For more information on our customized packages, please call +91 8800 700 100 or reach out to us at info@senocare.in.

 

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