River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Alzheimer's Disease

April 2001

All about this condition of memory loss

There are three main conditions of Dementia, of which Alzheimer's, is probably the best known.

Dementia affects the persons reasoning ,with a gradual loss of memory and ability to think clearly. Personality may change, a person who was previously of a calm nature, can become easily upset or agitated. Day to day tasks become more difficult to perform and in the advanced stages, the person may be unable to recognize family and friends, becoming less aware of their surroundings.

It is important to have a proper diagnosis, to rule out any other conditions that may have similar symptoms. Examples would be, depression, vitamin and some thyroid deficiencies and general emotional upsets.

The Doctor will perform various tests, including blood and urine, but more importantly, assessing mental ability.

Alzheimer's is more common in older people, but it must not be seen as a normal part of the ageing process. In this country, around a quarter to half a million people are sufferers. The incidence rises in those over 80 years of age. With people living longer, the numbers are continually rising.

Research is ongoing, but the causes of Alzheimer's are still not fully understood although there is an obvious link to the way messages are sent and processed by the brain.

There are some medicines, which may be able to help delay the progression of Alzheimer's. A consultation with the Doctor will clarify the position.

During the early stages of the condition, simple techniques can help. Keeping a list of tasks to carry out during the day, writing reminders of things to do, generally stimulating the brain and regular exercise where possible.

Some people have found complimentary therapies to be beneficial. Aromatherapy and massage for example. These will not tackle the cause of the condition or slow its progress, but can be of great benefit in alleviating the anxiety and general discomfort. Social services and health visitors will work alongside your Doctor to give as much support as possible.

Just as important as the sufferer and often overlooked is the carer or members of the immediate family. They too need tremendous support to help them through the enormous physical and emotional stress. Their needs are just as important, not only for their health and well being, but for their continued support to the sufferer. Carers should not be afraid to ask for help, or the opportunity to take a break, it is not a sign of weakness. We all need support in our own individual way.

Alzheimer's is a long-term illness. Families, must make realistic plans for the future. This will of course include financial planning and decisions about future care.

Dr Sam Knott

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