Following are links to some basic information about important health issues facing today's families.


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Alzheimer's is a disease that affects the brain and is the most common form of mental decline, or dementia. It is characterized by a steady loss in function, including the ability to speak, think, conduct daily activities and remember even the simplest of things.

The disease almost always gets worse with time, so the individual with Alzheimer's won't be able to live alone without assistance at some point. The rate of memory loss varies by the person and not all memory loss is Alzheimer's. It's natural for people over 60 to have some memory loss.

The risk of getting Alzheimer's increase with age. It is rare before the age of 60. By the age of 85, however, approximately 35% of all elderly experience some level of Alzheimer's.


The loss of memory is the most common first symptom. But there are others. As the disease progresses, the individual may:

  • Have trouble making even simple decisions
  • Become confused about the day or time
  • Become lost, even in places they are familiar with
  • Have problems learning new things
  • Not be able to find the right words and show frustration because they know what they want to say
  • Experience trouble doing basic daily tasks, such as cooking a meal or paying the bills

As the disease progresses, the symptoms only get worse. The individual may begin to wander on their own, particularly in the late afternoon or during the night. They may withdraw, hallucinate and become angry, lie or cheat. Eventually, they won't be able to take care of themselves. They may forget to eat, dres,s use the bathroom or remember how to walk.


The examination usually involves blood tests to rule out other possibilitiues and a CT scan or MRI to examine the brain. By themselves, these tests can't identify the onset of Alzeheimer's. But when combined with behavioral changes, they can be another indicator.


There is no cure for Alzheimer's. Eventually, the disease destroys the brain and is fatal. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the incidence is increasing, primarily because people are living longer. Most treatment involves creating a safe environment for the person to live in so they won't harm themselves or others and get the proper care they may forget to give themselves.

There are some drugs that will slow down the progression of the disease, including donepezil and memantine, which can help with memory and thinking. Not everyone is affected by these medications, but doctors will usually recommend trying them initially.

Adapted from materials provided by the Alzheimer's Association








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