Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.
AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), causes more memory problems than normal for people of the same age. Many, but not all, people with MCI will develop AD.
In AD, over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members. They may have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.
AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.
No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.
NIH: National Institute on Aging
A caregiver gives care to someone who needs help taking care of themselves. It can be rewarding. It may help to strengthen connections to a loved one. You may feel fulfillment from helping someone else. But sometimes caregiving can be stressful and even overwhelming. This can be especially true when caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
AD is an illness that changes the brain. It causes people to lose the ability to remember, think, and use good judgment. They also have trouble taking care of themselves. Over time, as the disease gets worse, they will need more and more help. As a caregiver, it is important for you to learn about AD. You will want to know what happens to the person during the different stages of the disease. This can help you plan for the future, so that you will have all of the resources you will need to be able to take care of your loved one.
As a caregiver for someone with AD, your responsibilities can include:
As you care for your loved one with AD, don't ignore your own needs. Caregiving can be stressful, and you need to take care of your own physical and mental health.
At some point, you will not be able to do everything on your own. Make sure that you get help when you need it. There are many different services available, including:
You might consider hiring a geriatric care manager. They are specially trained professionals who can help you to find the right services for your needs.
NIH: National Institute on Aging
What is dementia?
Dementia is a loss of mental functions that is severe enough to affect your daily life and activities. These functions include:
It is normal to become a bit more forgetful as you age. But dementia is not a normal part of aging. It is a serious disorder which interferes with your daily life.What are the types of dementia?
The most common types of dementia are known as neurodegenerative disorders. These are diseases in which the cells of the brain stop working or die. They include:
Other conditions can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms, including:
Certain factors can raise your risk for developing dementia, including:
The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on which parts of the brain are affected. Often, forgetfulness is the first symptom. Dementia also causes problems with the ability to think, problem solve, and reason. For example, people with dementia may:
Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions and their personalities may change. They may become apathetic, meaning that they are no longer interested in normal daily activities or events. They may lose their inhibitions and stop caring about other peoples' feelings.
Certain types of dementia can also cause problems with balance and movement.
The stages of dementia range from mild to severe. In the mildest stage, it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning. In the most severe stage, the person is completely dependent on others for care.How is dementia diagnosed?
Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:
There is no cure for most types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia. Treatments may help to maintain mental function longer, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow down the symptoms of disease. They may include:
Researchers have not found a proven way to prevent dementia. Living a healthy lifestyle might influence some of your risk factors for dementia.
What is Lewy body dementia (LBD)?
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is one of the most common types of dementia in older adults. Dementia is a loss of mental functions that is severe enough to affect your daily life and activities. These functions include:
There are two types of LBD: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease dementia.
Both types cause the same changes in the brain. And, over time, they can cause similar symptoms. The main difference is in when the cognitive (thinking) and movement symptoms start.
Dementia with Lewy bodies causes problems with thinking ability that seem similar to Alzheimer's disease. Later, it also causes other symptoms, such as movement symptoms, visual hallucinations, and certain sleep disorders. It also causes more trouble with mental activities than with memory.
Parkinson's disease dementia starts as a movement disorder. It first causes the symptoms of Parkinson's disease: slowed movement, muscle stiffness, tremor, and a shuffling walk. Later on, it causes dementia.What causes Lewy body dementia (LBD)?
LBD happens when Lewy bodies build up in parts of the brain that control memory, thinking, and movement. Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Researchers don't know exactly why these deposits form. But they do know that other diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, also involve a build-up of that protein.Who is at risk for Lewy body dementia (LBD)?
The biggest risk factor for LBD is age; most people who get it are over age 50. People who have a family history of LBD are also at higher risk.What are the symptoms of Lewy body dementia (LBD)?
LBD is a progressive disease. This means that the symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. The most common symptoms include changes in cognition, movement, sleep, and behavior:
In the early stages of LBD, symptoms can be mild, and people can function fairly normally. As the disease gets worse, people with LBD need more help due to problems with thinking and movement. In the later stages of the disease, they often cannot care for themselves.How is Lewy body dementia (LBD) diagnosed?
There isn't one test that can diagnose LBD. It is important to see an experienced doctor to get a diagnosis. This would usually be specialist such as a neurologist. The doctor will:
LBD can be hard to diagnose, because Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease cause similar symptoms. Scientists think that Lewy body disease might be related to these diseases, or that they sometimes happen together.
It's also important to know which type of LBD a person has, so the doctor can treat that type's particular symptoms. It also helps the doctor understand how the disease will affect the person over time. The doctor makes a diagnosis based on when certain symptoms start:
There is no cure for LBD, but treatments can help with the symptoms:
Support groups can also be helpful for people with LBD and their caregivers. Support groups can give emotional and social support. They are also a place where people can share tips about how to deal with day-to-day challenges.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Down syndrome is a condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome can have physical problems, as well as intellectual disabilities. Every person born with Down syndrome is different.
People with the syndrome may also have other health problems. They may be born with heart disease. They may have dementia. They may have hearing problems and problems with the intestines, eyes, thyroid, and skeleton.
The chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases as a woman gets older. Down syndrome cannot be cured. Early treatment programs can help improve skills. They may include speech, physical, occupational, and/or educational therapy. With support and treatment, many people with Down syndrome live happy, productive lives.
NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development