Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a term that is used to describe a group of brain disorders. These brain disorders cause memory loss and make it harder to carry out daily tasks. Alzheimer’s involves those parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.
This disease affects the brain in different ways. One effect is that a key brain chemical is lost which is acetylcholine. The loss of this chemical can contribute to some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The cause of Alzheimer’s is not yet known. Age is the main known risk factor.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that gets worse with time. The disease affects each person differently, but there are some symptoms that usually happen as the disease progresses. Alzheimer’s progresses in three stages over 8 to 10 years, on average, after diagnosis. The stages are mild, moderate and severe.
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, there are people who can help with treatment. Primary care physician, a geriatrician who is a doctor who specializes in treating the elderly, a neurologist who is a doctor trained to treat diseases of the nervous system and a psychiatrist who is a doctor who specializes in treating mental, emotional, or behavioral problems. When visiting these doctors he or she will probably start with a review of your loved one’s medical history and symptoms and a physical exam. The doctor may ask how your loved one is acting and managing in their life. The doctor may want to know if your loved one can do daily tasks.
Describe to the doctor how your loved one handles the following activities: shopping, managing money, dressing, bathing and eating. When talking with the doctor be open and honest. It may help the doctor make a diagnosis. Give details. Be specific about how your loved one is doing and feeling.
Ask questions. Start with the questions that matter most to you. Ask for more explanations if you need it. You may want to write questions and bring them with you to the doctor’s visit. For more information visit www.alz.org.