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Right now, 50 million people suffer from dementia. Of these diagnoses, the World Health Organization confirms that nearly 70 percent are classified as Alzheimer’s disease—a cognitive disorder that attacks the part of the brain that governs our ability to think, speak, remember and act clearly. While there is currently no cure for this condition, early intervention can alter its progression. And knowing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is the first step to ensuring both you and your loved ones can lead a healthy and happy life.
“According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in U.S. adults. And still, many just attribute this condition to old age,” said Barbara Roehl, M.D., Medical Director at Inspira LIFE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). “But the truth is that while this condition is mainly seen in individuals over 65 years old, it is not a normal part of aging—it is a devastating illness.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that typically starts with mild memory loss, but can advance to more severe cognitive impairments such as hallucinations, an inability to converse and even behavioral changes.
“We categorize Alzheimer’s into three phases: early, middle and late stage,” said Dr. Roehl. “We’ve all had an elderly relative forget where they placed their car keys or call us by the wrong name and blame it on old age. But with Alzheimer’s disease, this forgetfulness is different. It gets worse as time progresses and can lead to both mental and physical danger if not properly addressed.”
While memory loss is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, the National Institute on Aging states that difficulty handling finances, completing common household tasks, making good decisions and experiencing sudden behavioral changes are additional warning signs of this condition.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, an early diagnosis is the first step toward finding the treatment plan best suited to your lifestyle.
“This condition is predominantly seen in the aging population, but we do see early-onset Alzheimer’s in people between 30 and 60 years old,” said Dr. Roehl. “Every patient’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment is different. That’s why it’s so important to talk with a primary care provider if you believe you are experiencing any dramatic, sudden cognitive changes.”
Treating Alzheimer’s disease can include medical and behavioral intervention. While FDA-approved targeted drugs can help mitigate some of the cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, there are a variety of non-drug treatments that can help decrease behavioral triggers. Understanding which treatment is best for you starts with understanding your risk profile and speaking with your primary care provider.
“We don’t know much about what causes Alzheimer’s disease. But what we do know is that advanced age, family history and lifestyle habits like diet are all linked to an increased risk of this disease,” said Dr. Roehl. “Lowering your risk profile can start with stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and increasing your physical activity. But really, decreasing your risk for Alzheimer’s starts with making a plan with your health care management team.”
If you or a loved one is showing signs of, or has been diagnosed with, Alzheimer’s or dementia, Inspira LIFE may be a fit for you. To qualify for services at Inspira LIFE, an individual must be over the age of 55; live in Cumberland, Gloucester, or Salem County; meet a nursing facility level of care; and be safe in their home at the time of enrollment.
To learn more about Inspira LIFE, visit www.InspiraLIFE.org.