Author Note This paper is being submitted on November 1, 2014 for Heather Heck’s Structure and Function of the Human Body course.
Alzheimer’s Disease Imagine if your husband or wife woke up one morning and they didn’t know who you were, where they were, or their children’s names. They are in an altered state of mind, and you are unable to calm them down or help them remember. This could be a sign that you or a family member has Alzheimer’s disease. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is only going to rise as the baby boomers age. Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain. This disease was first described by a doctor named Alois Alzheimer in 1906. He discovered unusual clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles) in the brain of a woman who passed away from a rare mental illness. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells or neurons, resulting in a loss of memory, thinking and language skills and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex (“About Alzheimer’s Disease – Basics,” n.d.). Alzheimer’s disease leads to nerve cell death in the brain; tissue loss in the brain and the brain shrinks dramatically affecting nearly all bodily functions. Eventually, someone with Alzheimer’s disease forgets how to feed themselves, how to walk, and even how to go to the bathroom. They have to rely completely on someone for all their care. Many times, the caregiver is a family member. More often than not, that caregiver is a woman. More than 3 in 5 unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers are women (Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, n.d.). There are 2.5 more women than men who provide 24-hour care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly 19 percent of women Alzheimer’s caregivers had to quit working either to become a caregiver or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome (Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, n.d.). There are ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease ("Alzheimer's Disease 10 Signs," n.d.).
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially remembering something that they recently learned. Others include forgetting dates or events that were important to them.
2. Challenges in solving problems or planning. Some people experience changes in their ability to plan or to work with numbers. They might have trouble with following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They also might have difficulty concentrating.
3. Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home. People with Alzheimer’s find it difficult to complete daily tasks.
4. Confusion with time or place. They can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. Sometimes they forget where they are or how they got there.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Some people have vision problems. They may have a hard time reading, judging distance and determining color. If they are going from light flooring to dark flooring they will hesitate because it looks to them like the floor drops down like they are going to step in a hole. If they are going from dark to light flooring, they try and step up because of spatial issues and the changes in the brain.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.
More research is needed to identify definitively