We often hear questions regarding what the difference is between Dementia and Alzheimer's. Dementia is actually a group of symptoms that several diseases share. Alzheimer's is a specific disease. Imagine an umbrella. The top of the umbrella represents dementia (decline in memory, loss of cognitive abilities, etc); the spokes indicate specific diseases that share these symptoms; Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multi Infarct (memory loss possibly due to a stroke), Frontal Temporal, etc.
For the purpose of this article, we will hone in on Alzheimer's disease as it is the most common.
• An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages had Alzheimer's disease in 2011. This figure includes 5.2 million people aged 65 and older and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer's.
• One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) has Alzheimer's disease.
• Nearly half of people aged 85 and older (43 percent) have Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States. It is the fifth-leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
Alzheimer's affects different people in different ways, but the most common symptom pattern begins with gradually worsening difficulty in remembering new information. This disruption of brain cell function usually begins in regions involved in forming new memories. The following are warning signs of Alzheimer's:
• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood and personality
The cause or causes of Alzheimer's disease are not yet known and no cure is available at this time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five drugs that may temporarily slow symptoms for some people for about six to 12 months. However, researchers are studying treatment strategies that may have the potential to change the course of the disease.
President Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer's Project Act in January of 2011. The Department of Health and Human Services, because of this act, is formulating a national plan and they have developed the first draft framework. The framework will be published in February. According to Jana Powell, the Alzheimer Association Ambassador to Congressman Marlin Stutzman's office and a member of the Governor's Task Force, public input will be accepted until February 8th. Go to www.alz.org/napa.
There are other ways to help as well. The Alzheimer's Association's largest fundraiser is the Annual Walk to End Alzheimer's which will be held on September 22 at Headwaters Park. You can also support Kingston Spirit Bingo the second Wednesday of each month at Chick-fil-A in Jefferson Point. 15% of the proceeds of food sales from 8:15 – 9:15 a.m. inside Chick-fil-A are generously contributed to Alzheimer's. Bingo begins at 9:00 a.m.
A monthly Alzheimer Caregiver Support group is also held the first Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at the Waynedale Public Library. For answers to questions on any of the information you've read today, please contact Camille or Laura at 747-1523.