Alzheimer's Disease, the leading cause of dementia, results in
a deterioration of thinking skills due to a progressive loss of
brain cells. Alzheimer's is a disease that takes over the life of
both the person with the diagnosis and the family. It is a difficult
disease to conclusively diagnosis and is even more difficult to
Alzheimer's is a frequently occurring disease that continues to
increase in prevalence as the population ages. A person diagnosed
with Alzheimer's lives an average of eight years, from the onset
of the disease, although occasionally survival can be longer than
20 years. Seventy percent of Alzheimer's patients are living at
home and/or being cared for by family members.
Scientists are still not sure what causes Alzheimer's. Family history
has been identified as a potential risk factor. Researches agree
though, that Alzheimer's is most likely caused by several possible
factors. There is evidence that vascular problems such as high cholesterol
and high blood pressure increase risk. Age is certainly a factor,
since approximately ten percent of people over 65 and as many as
50% of people over 85 have Alzheimer's. In addition, two abnormal
structures in the brain have been linked to the disease. These are
amyloid plaques (clumps of protein fragments found on the outside
of cells) and neurofibrillary tangles (clumps of altered proteins
found inside the cells). Research has yet to determine exactly what
role these play in the disease.
Alzheimer's can strike someone as early as 30 years old, however
most people are diagnosed with the disease after the age of 65.
The early onset form of the disease accounts for less than ten percent
of all those diagnosed.
- Memory loss (specially short-term) of recent events, dates,
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks of everyday occurrences,
such as meal preparation and hobbies
- Problems with language; the inability to remember the right
word for an object, i.e. they may forget the word fork but refer
to it as "the thing that we use to eat with"
- Disorientation with time and place, starting to get lost in
- Problems with abstract thinking such as balancing a checkbook
- Changes in personality such as becoming easily agitated or suspicious
- Loss of initiative, passive about life and disinterested in
Diagnosing Alzheimer's is difficult but can be helped with early
and thorough evaluation. There is no single test for Alzheimer's.
A comprehensive patient exam and evaluation may include health history,
physical exam, mental status testing, blood work, and imaging exams.
There are currently four FDA approved medications for the treatment
of Alzheimer's and several other clinical trials are in process.
There are also other medications and therapies that can help reduce
some of the behavioral symptoms associated with the disease.
Once a person has been diagnosed, early involvement of the patient
and the family in education and planning can help ease the long-term
burden of the disease.
We encourage you to obtain a copy of the book The 36 Hour
Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons With Alzheimer's Disease,
Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life
by Nancy L Mace and Dr. Peter V. Rabins, available at most book
919 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611-1676
"The Alzheimer's Association is the largest national voluntary
health organization dedicated to advancing research for the causes,
treatments, and prevention of Alzheimer's disease, as well as to
enhancing care and support for individuals, their families, and
'Vision: Creating a world without Alzheimer's disease while optimizing
quality of life for individuals and their families.
Mission: To eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement
of research and to enhance care and support for individuals, their
families, and caregivers."
Canton Area Chapter
(Serves Carroll, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas, and Wayne Counties)
4815 Munson Street NW
Canton, Ohio 44718
Office hours: M-F, 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Please call the national 1-800-272-3900 hotline for all questions
about support group in your area. If you are planning to attend
any of the support groups for the first time, it is recommended
that you contact the Chapter office at the above numbers to confirm
the date, time, and location