It shouldn’t exactly come as a shock that I have another medical-related awareness month to share with you all. But even if you think you know all there is to know about Alzheimer’s disease, I implore you to keep reading because for all you know, you could still learn something and there is no such thing as being too informed.
For those of you who are a caregiver to or know someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you know first and foremost that it is the epitome of a struggle and that it is not something that anyone should ever have to experience first-hand. People who only garnered their knowledge of Alzheimer’s from the experiences of one of their elder relatives or from a show they watch on TV dread it as an inevitable part of aging. I’m here to put an end to this mindset because many of you would be shocked to find that your preconceptions are most likely false. In fact, I think the most accurate representation of Alzheimer’s I have witnessed on the cable TV circuit has come from Grey’s Anatomy.
So here it is, debunking some of the myths behind Alzheimer’s disease:
1) Alzheimer’s disease is a natural part of getting older: FALSE
Despite what you may have heard, Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging and it does not happen to everyone. Sure, people have their senior moments from time to time, but that pales in comparison to the memory loss you suffer when your brain cells are actually dying off.
2) Only people aged 65 and older are at risk: FALSE
While your risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after turning 65, there are some potential genetic predeterminations that may indicate a risk of developing an early-onset form of the disease. People who suffer from early onset begin developing the disease and its symptoms anywhere between their 30s-50s. According to www.alz.org, nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. are currently estimated to have early-onset.
3) Alzheimer’s disease only causes memory loss: FALSE
The gravity of this disease is so much more than a couple of lapses in memory. The brain experiences physical changes beginning with plaques (composed of a strand of beta-amyloid protein) and tangles (composed of the protein, tau). This causes the loss of connection between brain cells that allows the normal function of the body and the lack of connection eventually brings with it cell death and overall drastic shrinkage of the brain from loss of tissue. Because of the progressive brain cell death, Alzheimer’s is ultimately fatal and there have yet to be any survivors of the disease.
4) It is a treatable disease: FALSE
It is a sad fact that research conducted on Alzheimer’s disease has yet to find anything conclusive as far as preventing it or treating it. There are clinical trials throughout the country set on trying to find a cure, but as it stands today, there isn’t yet a way to stop the progression of the disease or its symptoms.
Since it’s vital to always be armed with the facts:
- Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia
- 1 in 6 women has an estimated lifetime risk for developing Alzheimer’s (you may be surprised to know that this is nearly twice the risk of developing breast cancer)
- More than 5 million people in America are living with this disease
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds
- There are 480,000 people aged 65 and older in Florida who are documented as having Alzheimer’s disease (and that doesn’t even factor in early onset patients)
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to know that it is not a battle that you have to fight alone. Although you may think that it is better to normalize your loved one’s surroundings to try to keep things the same as they always were, the fact is that things are not the same and you might come to find that help is necessary. If this applies to you or someone you know, look into how Catholic Health Services’ nursing and long term care services can help. Our nurses are highly skilled in handling cases as complex as Alzheimer’s and are dedicated to providing a high quality of care, comfort, compassion to maximize their patients’ quality of life.
Please visit www.catholichealthservices.org to learn more about our nursing services as well as our other service lines and, as always, feel free to join the discussion in the comments section or follow us on Facebook.