September: World Alzheimer's Month
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Dementia is a broad term used to describe a decline in mental ability that is so severe it interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in which the nerve cells in the brain, called neurons, break down over time. This causes symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, behavioral changes, and loss of speech. The three stages of Alzheimer’s are mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage), and severe (late-stage). The disease affects people differently. While the symptoms vary, they do worsen over time. Although the symptoms may not be noticed for many years, the disease causes changes in the brain over a long period of time. This time, before diagnosis, is known as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss is one of the most common signs of the disease. A typical change associated with age alone would be something like forgetting names or appointments and perhaps remembering them later. However, when memory loss is associated with Alzheimer’s, it can include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same information over and over, increasingly needing to rely on memory aids, and especially forgetting recently learned information. The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of 10 symptoms and warning signs. We would like to point out that there are some typical age-related changes that can occur in elderly friends, family, or patients. These are not necessarily linked to Alzheimer’s. However, if you believe that the problem is becoming worse or the person is having difficulty with more than just the one symptom, please urge them to see a doctor. There is currently no way to prevent Alzheimer’s or reverse its effect on the brain, however an early diagnosis can allow for the patient to receive the help they need to live a life as normal as possible.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers various forms of support including a 24/7 help line and local chapters that provide help in the community and organize fundraising events in the area. On October 2, 2016, there will be a Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the Kansas City area in Overland Park, KS. Sign up here. You can also Pledge to Take Action here.