I can recall my grandmother when I was a child; she was nice, happy, and could always remember stories about her younger years and even everyone in our family's birthday. All of that changed one day though, my grandmother was at home about three years ago when all of the sudden she had a miniature stroke attack. Physically she was fine after the attack; but mentally she was not well. The miniature strokes had triggered a horribly devastating disease called Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disease that destroys mental and physical functioning in human beings, and invariably leads to death. It is said to be one of the leading causes of adult death in the United States. The disease can create emotional and financial catastrophe for any families that has had a loved one inflicted with this horrible disease. Alzheimer's disease deteriorates the inflicted person's memory to the point that they can not even remember who their children are.
In a recent study done by scientist, they found that "based on recent estimates, about five percent of the American population over 65 suffers from this incurable disease. In the mid-1980's, at least 2 million people were condemned to live the last years of their lives in helplessness and mental disability". (Frank 11). These results ca be devastating to anyone who has a history of family members who have been inflicted by this disease. Previously, some people believed that confusion and trouble with memory were a natural part of growing old. This mental disability was often called being senile and considered a sad but unavoidable condition suffered by those who were unlucky enough to live a long life Much still remains unknown about this destructive illness, research is being done on Alzheimer's disease, and more is being learned about it each day.
A lot of attention has been given to the care needed by Alzheimer's victims and the problems faced by family members who must try and provide care for these people. Taking care of a person who has been afflicted with the disease is a very difficult task. It is written that "Caretakers must act both as nurses and guardians, providing for the daily need of their sick relatives and protecting him or her from falls and other injuries. They must suffer the intense pain of seeing a well-loved parent or grandparent changed beyond recognition by the symptoms of the disease".
(Frank 40). People in early stage stages of Alzheimer's disease do not experience a large loss of mental ability in a short time, but seems to be more gradual. It has also been said that Alzheimer's disease is like a virus. In a recent study done by scientist it was found that "damage is in the form of lesions, abnormal changes in the brain cells themselves. These lesions caused by Alzheimer's disease can be clearly seen only when an autopsy is performed on the brain of a diseased victim" (Frank 22).
This would explain why Alzheimer's progressively gets worse as time goes on. In the final stages of Alzheimer's disease, the damage done to the brain causes serious disability. Memory loss, confusion, and other symptoms of Alzheimer's can be so severe that a person can have difficulty carrying out even the simplest tasks of life. The infected persons emotional state can also be seriously affected, which can result in extreme mood changes and changes in temper. As Alzheimer's disease spreads through the brain, the afflicted person can become completely bedridden and could even go as far as to lose control over their bodily functions. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's disease is not an easy disease to recognize or diagnose.
Its symptoms are said to be similar to other illnesses affecting the brain such as mental disorders like depression. Typically, doctors classify symptoms such as mental confusion, or loss of memory as dementia. This is one of the reasons why it is so hard to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Some disorders that can result in dementia are curable, but Alzheimer's disease is not. Therefore, it is very important to diagnose the cause of the dementia early and correctly. In addition, some Alzheimer's disease symptoms, such as depression, can be effectively treated, so it's better to identify these as soon as possible.
If these symptoms are ignored than there are no telling the damage that can occur until the person is given the proper treatment needed to help them through it. As stated earlier though, Alzheimer's disease cannot be definitely diagnosed until after death, when the brain can be closely examined for the lesions and abnormal changes in the brain cells changes caused by the disease. Luckily, with as much attention that has been given to Alzheimer's disease it can be evaluated pretty quickly by the people close to the supposedly infected person. While older people may have some problems, severe memory loss and confusion are not part of them. This is why if there is someone that you know who might be inflicted you should try and get that person help immediately. Frank, Julia.
Alzheimer's Disease: The Silent Epidemic. New York: Lerner, Nov. 1995..