As of 2023, it's estimated that over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. According to the World Alzheimer Report, 75% of dementia cases go undiagnosed worldwide each year. The goal of World Alzheimer's Month—and by extension, World Alzheimer's Day on September 21st—is to raise awareness for Alzheimer's and the ongoing efforts for a cure.
What is Alzheimer's?
In order to understand Alzheimer's, you need to understand the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia. Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms that affect memory recall, reasoning, and other thinking skills. Alzheimer's, meanwhile, is a specific form of dementia characterized by severe symptoms. It's the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 60-80% of all cases.
The most common symptom of Alzheimer's is memory loss. While occasional forgetfulness is normal, Alzheimer's-associated memory loss often becomes severe enough that the afflicted will completely forget names, faces, personal history, and locations. Other symptoms include personality changes, a shortened attention span, paranoia, hallucinations, and difficulty completing daily tasks such as handling money, bathing, eating, and speaking.
Alzheimer's Risk Factors
While the true cause of Alzheimer's is currently unknown, it's believed to be caused by cell damage as a result of age-related brain changes, inflammation, and unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive drinking. Most cases of Alzheimer's develop past the age of 65, although it can develop earlier in rare cases. There's also a genetic factor—if someone in your immediate family has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, you're more likely to develop it as you age. This doesn't mean you're guaranteed to develop it, however.
Preventative Measures and Treatment
Currently, there's no known cure for Alzheimer's or any guaranteed way to avoid developing it. However, there are several prevention measures you can take to lower your chances of developing Alzheimer's later in life. These include:
- Avoiding smoking or excess drinking
- Managing blood sugar and high blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Staying physically active
Individual symptoms, such as changes in sleep patterns or behavior, can occasionally be treated through medication. For example, the drug memantine can be used to treat the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Talk with the patient's doctor to discuss potential treatment options.
In severe cases of Alzheimer's, it may be best to move the patient to a long-term care facility specializing in dementia care. These facilities differ from traditional nursing homes in that they're able to provide round-the-clock care for Alzheimer's patients. While this isn't always viable due to available facilities or financial constraints, it can be extremely helpful for both the patient and their family members, especially if the patient struggles with daily tasks such as bathing or dressing.
Alzheimer's Assistance with Arnot Health
World Alzheimer's Month is a month to raise awareness for Alzheimer's-afflicted individuals and their families. If someone you know is struggling with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, contact Arnot Health. In addition to primary care services and specialized services such as orthopedic care, we also offer a caregiver's guide to help those who serve as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's. If you're struggling with care-associated medical bills, the Arnot Health credit service department is here to help you find and apply to financial aid programs. Contact Arnot Health today and ensure your loved ones are taken care of.